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The Column AHA Centre News Bulletin: Volume 42, September 2018

News and Press Release
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During August 2018 the AHA Centre once again evidenced ASEAN’s solidarity for disaster-affected population in the Southeast Asian region, this time supporting communities in the well-known tourist destination of Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. The area was recently the epicentre of multiple earthquakes, with the initial major quake recorded at M 6.4 on Sunday the 29th of July. A week later, on the 5th of August, a larger M 7 earthquake hit the already-affected area, increasing numbers of casualties and causing greater damaged to buildings and livelihoods within the Lombok region. The main shock also triggered a tsunami warning, which thankfully did not result in an actual tsunami event. However, throughout the month of August, over 1000 aftershocks were recorded by the Meteorological, Climatology, and Geological Agency of Indonesia (BMKG), with the region still remaining vulnerable to quakes during the ongoing recovery phase.

Following the main earthquake on the 5th of August 2018, the AHA Centre intensified its cooperation with Indonesian National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB), which had been ongoing since the initial quake in late July. Upon receiving notification of the second earthquake, the AHA Centre immediately deployed a staff member to the field, provided information management and translation support for BNPB, as well as facilitated the deployment of an ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ERAT) to the affected region. A little later, the AHA Centre obtained a green-light to mobilise relief items from the ASEAN emergency stockpile in Subang, Malaysia. These relief items – worth approximately USD $154,438 – were picked-up by the BNPB using a chartered flight, arriving in Praya Airport, Lombok, in three batches between early to mid-August.

For Lombok, earthquake events are not particularly new, with notable earthquakes recorded in the region from as early as the year 1856. Consolidated data from the United States Geological Survey and the Indonesian Meteorological and Climatology Agency (BMKG) also noted that major earthquakes above M 6 occurred on the island in 1970, 1972, 1978, 1979, and 2000. Based on the latest National Disaster Risk Index – published by BNPB in 2016 – Lombok is categorised as a medium to high-scale earthquake-prone area. Considering these vulnerabilities and risks, the resettlement areas currently underconstruction will use similar earthquake-resistant technology that has been adopted through the post-earthquake recovery periods in Aceh and Nias, Sumatera, Indonesia.

“Indonesia is part of the ASEAN community, and the BNPB has been working closely with the ASEAN coordinating agency for disaster management, or AHA Centre. All Heads of State and Government of ASEAN countries have agreed to stand as one, whenever natural disasters happen in neighbouring states. Based on the One ASEAN One Response Declaration, Indonesia trusts the AHA Centre to provide additional logistical support that is required for the emergency response. For example, this Mobile Storage Unit we stand in that can serve as a portable warehouse, and family tents that can provide shelters for the displaced communities”, said H.E Willem Rampangilei, the Chief of BNPB, in between the emergency responses in Lombok.

On a similar note, the Executive Director of the AHA Centre, Ms. Adelina Kamal, stated that “the ASEAN relief items belong to all ASEAN countries, including Indonesia. When a disaster occurs and relief items are required, ASEAN Member State can access the regional stockpile, and the AHA Centre will facilitate its mobilisation to the affected areas. We would like to show our appreciation to the BNPB for the confidence given to the AHA Centre in complementing the government’s life-saving efforts on the ground. Our partnership strengthens the vision embodied in the ASEAN Declaration on One ASEAN One Response”.

All ten ASEAN Member States have recognised the AHA Centre as the primary regional disaster management coordinating agency in ASEAN. Indonesia has been actively involved in the establishment of the AHA Centre, and has been hosting the AHA Centre since it first opened in November 2011. The mission to Lombok is the AHA Centre’s fifth response this year, bringing the total responses to 23 emergencies in 7 ASEAN countries since the AHA Centre’s establishment.

Written by: Shintya Kurniawan | Photo : AHA Centre



A two-week period in July saw the development of 5 tropical storms, one of which had a severe affect on the northern ASEAN region. The Southwest monsoon (refer to figure 1.) brought with it heavy torrential rains, resulting in flooding through the Mekong River region. Hydro-meteorological disasters formed the main hazards during this period, and are expected to persist with continued rain over the northern ASEAN region, coupled with drier conditions in southern part of ASEAN.

In contrast to the situation in the northern ASEAN region, droughts in 16 municipalities have been reported across seven consecutive weeks thus far, with one reported wildfire occurrence in the past month. The ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre detected hotspots in Indonesia’s Kalimantan and Sumatra during July. General conditions for August remained similar to July, with high rainfall experienced over the northern region, impacting countries in the Mekong region and northern parts of the Philippines.

Throughout the last 2 months, large numbers of earthquakes were recorded and experienced by ASEAN communities. The increased seismic activity is not only restricted to the region,with the phenomenon also seen globally. A total of 232 earthquakes were recorded internationally between the 20th and 26th of August along the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and its adjacent tectonic plates. Of these recorded earthquakes, 37 (15.9%) were recorded at a scale of M 5.0 or above, with 25 (67.6%) of these major earthquakes (≥M 5.0) occurring within a span of 48 hours between August 20th to 22nd. Of these 232 earthquakes, 32 (13.8%) were reported within the ASEAN region. Of the 32 recorded in the region, 11 (34.4%) were reported to be M 5.0 and above. The increasing seismic activity is currently being observed by seismological agencies in anticipation of increased volcanic activity, earthquakes, tsunamis and other related hazards. Nevertheless, in July and August 2018, activity of volcanoes in Philippines and Indonesia stayed within their normal threshold, with no changes in any of their alert levels

The prevailing Southwest Monsoon season is expected to persist until October 2018, with prevailing winds in the region blowing from the southeast or southwest. Climatologically, the Southwest Monsoon season is characterised by rainy conditions in the northern ASEAN region, and dry conditions in the southern ASEAN region.


Warmer than average conditions can be expected over the equatorial ASEAN region, especially in Borneo and south-eastern Sumatra, while near-average or slightly above-average temperatures are forecasted over most other areas during the August-October season.

For the equatorial ASEAN region, below-average rainfall is forecasted between August and October. The drier-than-usual weather could to lead to an escalation in hotspot activities and an increased risk of transboundary smoke haze.

Near-average rainfall is forecasted for the rest of the region, including the northern ASEAN region. Hotspot activities in the northern ASEAN region are likely to remain subdued due to wet weather. The outlook is assessed for the region in general. For specific updates on the national scale, the relevant National Meteorological and Hydrological Services as well as Geological Services should be consulted.

Written by : Mizan Bisri, Qing Yuan Pang


Situated on the Ring of Fire, the ASEAN region faces one of the greatest threats of natural disaster due to geophysical activity along this unstable belt of tectonic plates. One of the key disaster threats categorised into the geophysical type are volcanoes, as well as a range of related disasters that can occur as the result of volcanic activity. During 2018 ASEAN has experienced a range of geophysical events that have triggered disasters. Therefore, understanding the varieties and impacts of such occurrences is highly important for disaster management across the region.

The AHA Centre closely monitors the ongoing dynamic conditions of 150 volcanoes in the ASEAN region that are active and have a recent historical record of eruptions.127 of these volcanoes are located in Indonesia, with 23 in the Philippines, while volcanoes found in other areas of the region are currently dormant. Volcanoes in other ASEAN countries are in dormant condition, such as those in Viet Nam with its last eruptions dated back in the early Holocene era or underwater volcanoes in Andaman Sea between Thailand and Myanmar. Most recently in late 2017 to early 2018, monitoring, preparedness, and pre-emptive evacuations were undertaken by respective local and national agencies due to increased activities on Mount Agung (Bali, Indonesia) and Mount Mayon (Albay, the Philippines). However no lives were lost due to this increased activity. As of September 2018, only Mount Sinabung (North Sumatra, Indonesia) remains at Alert Level IV (out of the maximum 4 alert levels) – which means it may experience major eruptions at any point – with the level IV status ongoing throughout the past five years. Mount Agung remains at Alert Level III, while all other volcanoes in Indonesia and the Philippines are currently at Alert Level II (localised activity with no serious eruption risk).


A volcano is an opening in the Earth’s crust that allows molten rock, gases and debris to escape to the surface, often exploding through the surface with severe strength and impact on nearby geography. Volcano eruptions are categorised into geophysical hazards that occur when magma (molten rock) is released from a volcanic vent, with eruptions classified into a range of different types including phreatic, phreatomagmatic, surtseyan and effusive (lava-bearing) eruptions.


Most hazards, phenomena and disasters associated with volcanic eruptions affect areas close to the volcano itself. Of high importance is the realisation that volcanic activity may also trigger other natural disaster events, including tsunamis, landscape deformation, floods, and tremor-provoked landslides.


Earthquakes and volcanoes are intrinsically linked, as they result from tectonic plate processes that constantly reshape the earth’s surface. Earthquakes form a key clue that a volcano is preparing to erupt, as the movement of magma exerts significant force on the earth above it as pushes through the crust. This pressure from the rising magma causes many of the earthquakes that occur in volcanically active areas. However, such earthquakes also rarely exceed magnitude 5, and are barely noticeable outside the vicinity of the volcano itself. Such earthquakes do help volcanologists to map and track underground lava flows, with different types of earthquakes often resulting based the signature of tremors, then used to determine if the volcano is heading towards an eruption. Seismic information such as this is valuable for volcanologists who are monitoring eruption events such as explosions or lahars.

Written by : William Shea