Indonesia disaster preparedness a work in progress
JAKARTA, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Indonesia has learnt lessons from dealing with a string of earthquakes, but still can do more to reduce the impact of such disasters by quake proofing buildings and deploying more tsunami buoys, officials said on Wednesday.
An official at Indonesia's National Coordinating Agency for Disaster Management said there had been progress in educating people since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that followed a huge quake off Aceh province and killed nearly 170,000 Indonesians.
"The awareness of the people has been enhanced and the understanding also between the government and the people has been better," said Tabrani, who goes by one name like many Indonesians. A powerful 8.4 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of western Sumatra last month toppling thousands of buildings, but killed only about 25 people.
Tabrani said that people had responded quickly and moved to higher ground in case of a tsunami, but he conceded that part of the reason for the relatively low casualty rate was luck.
A less powerful quake that struck around the city of Yogykarta on Java island last year at around dawn killed more than 5,700 people.
"In Bengkulu it was at sunset time around six when people are still awake and outside," Tabrani told foreign correspondents at a panel discussion on disaster preparedness.
He also said that the buildings in the area of last month's quake were timber-framed and held up better, adding that authorities were trying to promote quake-proof building.
Tabrani also noted there were plans to increase mangrove planting to mitigate the impact of tsunamis.
Fauzi, an official at Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency, said it was important not to become too fixated on the prospect of another huge quake striking the west coast of Sumatra -- as some experts have predicted after recent seismic activity.
"We do not have the capability to predict earthquakes. What we need to do is the preparedness, better preparedness rather than thinking about the next earthquake."
The official said parts of Indonesia's tsunami early warning system were in poor shape, with only one buoy to detect tsunamis in place.
He said that by the end of 2008 more than 20 buoys should be in service.
Michael Rottmann, a Jakarta-based official for UNESCO (the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), said that Indonesia's disaster preparedness was "an ongoing process", but that in the last few years "the consciousness of people has been changed."
"In a country where daily life is sometimes a difficult thing to cope with, disaster management, preparedness and all these things are not a priority of the people."
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