Indonesia - Like tens of thousands of their countrymen, residents of the Indonesian hamlet of Sukon fled their homes on Wednesday as a powerful predawn earthquake collapsed homes, businesses and places of worship, killing more than 100 people.
One of the first phone calls the village’s leader made once the earth stopped moving was to IOM’s Andy Armansyah. Just three weeks ago he led an IOM earthquake simulation exercise in Sukon, the latest event in the organization’s three-year disaster risk reduction (DRR) project in Aceh province at the northern tip of Sumatra.
“He said, ‘Alhamdulillah [Thank God], we followed what we learned, we evacuated the village, met safely at the main assembly point and contacted the BPBD [district disaster management agency] for information and they told us no tsunami warning was issued’,” Armansyah recalled this week from Meureudu, the seat of neighbouring Pidie Jaya regency, where a small IOM team was conducting a rapid assessment of communities affected by the 6.5 magnitude quake.
“He also told me that one of the Sukon community volunteers has been sent to the earthquake area in Pidie Jaya to help the communities there. It feels good knowing that we made a difference and all the residents of our ‘disaster resilient villages’ near the epicentre of the quake are safe.”
At least 102 people died, more than 700 were injured and hundreds of buildings destroyed in the latest major earthquake to strike Indonesia, the 5,000-km long archipelagic nation that straddles the seismically active Ring of Fire. Indonesian authorities announced overnight that the number of displaced people had jumped from 3,200 to an estimated 21,300, many seeking shelter from heavy seasonal rains in mosques and government buildings. Almost 11,400 homes, 108 businesses and 50 village bridges have been damaged or destroyed.
Earthquakes and other natural disasters are a feature of Indonesia’s mountainous northernmost province. The December 2004 Asian tsunami, caused by a massive earthquake below the seabed, claimed 230,000 lives across the region, most of them in Aceh.
IOM launched its DRR project in Aceh in 2013, working with the BPBD to improve the ability of the agency and local authorities to prepare for natural disasters, through 40 communities across the province.
The intervention involves the creation of a village-level disaster planning group, exercises designed to map local vulnerability to risks like flooding, landslides or earthquakes, and ultimately create and publicize a response plan in the event disaster strikes. Once that process has been completed, IOM organizes a day-long simulation exercise like the one conducted in Sukon on November 17.
“We understand it is as important to develop community resilience, as it is to strengthen the government’s emergency response capacity,” says IOM’s project manager Peter Kern. “They are made aware of the evacuation routes at schools, offices and their homes. Assembly points are established and safe evacuations are simulated through these exercises. This process not only increases preparedness, but creates a ‘muscle memory’ that is triggered in the event of a real emergency situation.”
Kern points to the experience of IOM-assisted resilient villages in Garut, West Java, which were hit by heavy flooding several years ago.
“Eleven people died in those floods, but none of the casualties were from the villages where we’d engaged,” Kern said. “The village heads told us later that the death toll would have been much higher if they’d not had a plan.”
For further information please contact Paul Dillon at IOM Indonesia. Email: email@example.com, Tel. +628119444612.
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