Monday, July 17, 2006

Earthquake and tsunami effects West Java, Indonesia

From an article appearing in the Washiington Post, by Achmad Sukarsono:

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A tsunami triggered by a strong undersea earthquake off the southern coast of Java island swept away buildings at an Indonesian beach resort on Monday and killed nearly 40 people, an official and media reports said.

The news spread panic across a region still recovering from a tsunami less than two years ago that left nearly 230,000 people killed or missing, mostly in Indonesia. But there were no reports of casualties or damage in any other country from Monday's tsunami.

Waves up to 1.5 metres (five feet) high crashed into Pangandaran Beach near Indonesia's Ciamis town, around 270 km (170 miles) southeast of Jakarta, and a local official said 37 people had been killed. The toll could rise, he said.

A US Geological Survey map of current seismic activity in the Australia/SE Asia region show several strong aftershocks as well, and a smaller 5.3 magnitude earthquake that preceded the one that caused the tsunami had effected Enggano, the southernmost island in the Mentawai chain.

Hopefully, since the U.S. Navy has obviously useful assets nearby off Northern Sumatra, we can demonstrate more value to the people of Indonesia, even though we have plenty of our own disasters and emergencies to worry about now (e.g. evacuating U.S. citizens from Lebanon, drought).

Longer term, we also need to demonstrate follow through in rebuilding in Aceh and in the area of Indonesia's last big earthquake in Yogyakarta, and responsibility to both taxpayers and future recipients of overseas humanitarian assistance in measuring our own efficacy in our response to those disasters.

Teaching more Americans 'Bahasa Indonesia' and Javanese will also help, in disaster response situations, in anti-terror and anti-piracy programs, and in conducting business and other cross-cultural exchanges. It is a simple and a fun language.

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