Indonesian Earthquake and Tsunami Leaves Unprecedented Destruction

At 5:02 p.m. Western Indonesian Time on Friday Sept. 28 2018, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit the central province of Palu on Sulawesi, an Indonesian island. This earthquake in particular was one of 27 aftershocks of a 6.1 magnitude earthquake that happened only three hours previously at 2:00 PM Western Indonesian Time. The 7.5-magnitude earthquake also had a series of aftershocks following it, including one that registered at a 5.8 magnitude on the Richter scale. Following this, a tsunami was triggered, sending waves reportedly as high as 18-20 feet throughout the coast of Palu.

Even though this region is used to experiencing earthquakes on a semi-regular basis, this came as a shocking event due to the way in which this earthquake was triggered. According to National Geographic (NG), “The 7.5-magnitude earthquake appears to be the result of what’s known as a strike-slip fault, which takes place as two blocks of crust grind against one another, largely in a horizontal direction. Tsunamis more commonly follow vertical movement in the crust, which disrupts the overlying water and can generate massive waves crashing onshore.”

Additionally, it has been reported that the erosion occurring on the Palu-Kora fault that created the bay caused liquefaction to occur. Liquefaction is an earthquake related rarity where the ground suddenly becomes a liquid like state with waves that mick those in the ocean begin to emerge. Because of the strange phenomena that this earthquake and tsunami were triggered by, “scientists emphasize that there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding Friday’s events,” according to NG. Even with 350,000 people living in Palu, the city was decimated within hours. As aid workers continue to look for and rescue victims of the earthquake and tsunami, the true damage done will not be known until months into the clean-up effort.

When speaking to CNN about relief going to those affected from the damage done by the earthquake and tsunami, head of the international red cross in Indonesia, Jan Gelfand said “It is not just the people in the large urban areas. There are a lot of people also living in remote communities who are hard to reach.”

As of Oct. 11, the U.N. reported that the earthquake and tsunami had taken 2,000 lives with that number continuing to grow each day. Additionally, according to Time, “some 74,000 people lost their homes and will live in refugee camp-like settlements for the foreseeable future.” Additionally, ABC News reported that 8,130 individuals were recorded having minor wounds, and 2,549 were reported with serious injuries.

The search and rescue missions were extended on Oct. 11 as well, with families of the 5,000 people missing or trapped under the rubble of destroyed infrastructure petitioning the Sulawesi government to do so. With a statement to ABC News, the chief of an affiliated organization to ‘Save the Children’ based in Indonesia, Selina Sumbung said ending the search mission is accepted with a “heavy heart.”

“Children are particularly vulnerable in disasters, and to think that so many will never have the chance to grow up is heartbreaking,” said Sumbung.

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