No warning meant no escape from Indonesia tsunami

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Experts say Saturday’s disaster was most likely caused by a moderate eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano in the Sunda Strait. (AFP)
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A quake-tsunami that struck Palu on Sulawesi island in September killed around 2,200 people, with thousands more missing and presumed dead. (AFP)
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After the catastrophic Indian Ocean quake-tsunami in 2004, Indonesia deployed a number of early-warning marine buoys to detect tsunamis, but Nugroho said they had been out of action for the past six years. (AFP)
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Efforts to improve systems have been beset by problems, from a failure to properly maintain new equipment to bureaucratic bickering. (AFP)
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Tide-monitoring stations and data-modelling are the main tools Indonesia monitoring agencies use to predict tsunamis — usually in the wake of an earthquake. (AFP)
Updated 24 December 2018
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No warning meant no escape from Indonesia tsunami

  • “The lack of an early warning system is why the tsunami was not detected,” acknowledged disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho
  • Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide

JAKARTA: An unpredictable chain of events and an inadequate early warning system combined to deadly effect with the tsunami that slammed into coastal areas of Indonesia killing nearly 300 people, disaster officials and experts said Monday.
The killer wave struck tourist beaches and low-lying settlements on both sides of the Sunda Strait with devastating force on Saturday night, catching both residents and disaster monitors totally unawares.
In a series of tweets later deleted with a stricken apology, the national disaster agency had stated there was “no tsunami threat” even as the wave crashed over parts of southern Sumatra and the western tip of Java.
“The lack of an early warning system is why the tsunami was not detected,” acknowledged disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
“Signs that a tsunami was coming weren’t detected and so people did not have time to evacuate,” he added.
Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.
A quake-tsunami that struck Palu on Sulawesi island in September killed around 2,200 people, with thousands more missing and presumed dead.
Tide-monitoring stations and data-modelling are the main tools Indonesia monitoring agencies use to predict tsunamis — usually in the wake of an earthquake.
But even if all the country’s stations are working, the network is recognized to be limited and in any case gives people little time to flee as they only detect waves once they are close to shore.
Efforts to improve systems have been beset by problems, from a failure to properly maintain new equipment to bureaucratic bickering.
Experts say Saturday’s disaster was most likely caused by a moderate eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano in the Sunda Strait that triggered either a large and very fast moving flow of molten rock into the sea or a sudden and massive submarine landslide.
In either case, large volumes of water would have been displaced, resulting in a tsunami.
“Such triggers would not have been detected by Indonesia’s tsunami early warning system because that is geared-up to detect earthquake-triggered tsunamis,” said Richard Teeuw, a disaster risk reduction expert at the University of Portsmouth in England.
“The night-time occurrence of the tsunami would have added to the chaos, with little chance of seeing the incoming tsunami wave and running to safety,” Teeuw said.
And the fact that Anak Krakatoa had been displaying significant activity for months, meant that Saturday’s minor eruption would have sparked no particular cause for alarm.
After the catastrophic Indian Ocean quake-tsunami in 2004, Indonesia deployed a number of early-warning marine buoys to detect tsunamis, but Nugroho said they had been out of action for the past six years.
“Vandalism, limited budgets and technical issues are the reasons why we currently don’t have tsunami buoys,” he said. “We must rebuild them to strengthen Indonesia’s Tsunami Early Warning System.”
Such buoys are normally deployed along underwater tectonic plate boundaries — the focus again on detecting earthquake-generated tsunamis rather than those triggered by volcanic activity.
David Rothery, a professor of planetary geosciences at Britain’s Open University, noted that a blanket deployment of buoys would still have a limited warning impact if the tsunami was generated close to the shore.
“Even if there had been such a buoy right next to Anak Krakatau, this is so close to the affected shorelines that warning time would have been minimal given the high speeds at which tsunami waves travel,” Rothery said.


Tony Blair: UK Muslim activist groups promote ‘extremist world view’ 

Updated 3 min 25 sec ago
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Tony Blair: UK Muslim activist groups promote ‘extremist world view’ 

  • Organizations stir up resentment by portraying Muslims in Britain as victims and alienated, report finds
  • Divisive ideas about the place of Muslims in the West are "threatening social cohesion"

LONDON: Former British prime minister Tony Blair has accused some Muslim organizations in Britain of spreading views that often mirror those of extremists. 

While they are non-violent, such groups stir up resentment by portraying Muslims in Britain as victims, alienated from British society and in constant conflict with the non-Muslim world. 

Most disturbingly, they “promote a worldview that significantly overlaps with that of a proscribed Islamist extremist organisation, Al-Muhajiroun” - a banned group which does espouse violence.

The allegations appear in a report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change - the think tank Blair founded after leaving office - and names four groups: CAGE, Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK and Islamic Human Rights Commission.

The report identifies six “key themes” shared by all four groups: Victimization, opposition between “good” and “bad” Muslims, opposition between Islam and the West, a delegitimization of the government, making Islam central to national politics and justification of violence.

“There is a range of views on these six themes, with differing degrees of severity from mainstream to extreme,” the report says. Of the four, Hizb ut-Tahrir comes close to sharing Al-Muhajiroun’s stance on violence. 

Banned since 2000, Al-Muhajiroun notoriously dubbed those  behind the Sept. 11 attacks “the Magnificent 19” and several of the group’s adherents have perpetrated other atrocities. 

The report warns that such a “corrosive narrative” promoting divisiveness between Muslims and non-Muslims can only embolden the far right and calls on the UK government to establish “a working definition of extremism” by identifying the key ideas that would “flag up” potential danger.

“Divisive ideas about the place of Muslims in the West are threatening social cohesion in Britain today,” said the former prime minister, who went on to serve as a special Middle East envoy. 

“Countering and recognizing this is an essential part of fighting extremism because - let us be clear - there is nothing incompatible between being British and being Muslim. But too many people, Muslims and non-Muslims, actively push messages that suggest otherwise.”

 The result, he said, was a “skewed discourse” in which fringe views dominate because moderate voices are afraid to speak out. Blair also accused  UK politicians of giving up on the discussion.

“Many Muslims in the UK hear more from divisive groups about how there is a security state set up to oppress them than they hear from our national leaders about how communities and policymakers can work together to build a thriving, inclusive Britain,” he said.

“Often when people think of this challenge, they focus entirely on violent, jihadi groups. Yet, as this report shows, many of the central ideas that British Muslims are hearing today from some activist groups are worryingly similar to the ideology of violent extremist groups.”

The Home Office (interior ministry) of the UK government describes Hizb ut-Tahrir as a “radical, but to date non-violent Islamist group” that “holds anti-semitic, anti-western and homophobic views.” Almost all the articles on the Hizb ut-Tahrir website portray Muslims as oppressed and bullied. Some articles are clearly anti-Saudi in tone and content.

CAGE was founded as an advocacy service to raise awareness of the plight of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay during and after the War on Terror. Its outreach director, Moazzam Beg was himself held in Guantanamo Bay for two years before being released without charge. However critics have labelled CAGE “apologists for terrorism,” a “terrorism advocacy group,” propagators of a “myth of Muslim persecution” and “a front for Taliban enthusiasts and Al-Qaeda devotees that fraudulently presents itself as a human rights group.”

The British-born Daesh extremist Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed Jihadi John, who was filmed beheading hostages had been in contact with CAGE while in the UK, complaining that he was being harassed by British intelligence agencies.

Responding to the Blair Institute report, CAGE called it “an academically flawed attempt to remould Islamic belief and silence Muslim voices that challenge repressive state policies,” and dismissed the former prime minister as “commonly known for being funded by despots.”

CAGE research director Asim Qureshi said: “It’s unsurprising, considering Tony Blair’s penchant for misinformation that his organization would use seriously flawed methodology in order to draw false conclusions.”

Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has held consultative status with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs since 2007. However it has also been described as “a radical Islamist organisation that uses the language of human rights to promote an extremist agenda including the adoption of sharia law” and “neo-Khomeinist.” 

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK encourages tactical voting in elections to dislodge members of parliament who support policies which it considers not be in Muslims’ interest. In 2005, the MPACUK targeted Lorna Fitzsimmons, a Labour MP for Rochdale, a town in north-west England with a large Muslim population, printing leaflets that claimed she had done nothing to help the Palestinian cause because she was Jewish. She is not and the group later apologized.

Former home secretary Jack Straw, whose parliamentary seat in Blackburn also has a large Muslim population, called the group “egregious” after it campaigned for Muslims to oust him. 

Azmina Siddique, policy adviser at the Tony Blair Institute, said: “The groups studied in this report don’t represent what most British Muslims think…This isn’t about violent extremism but about sowing division. This ‘us versus them’ rhetoric is becomingly increasingly visible across our society, including from the far right. Policymakers and civil society must start to challenge rhetoric that falls into this grey space between activism and extremism so that we can tackle the increasingly toxic climate that is feeding into extremism.”

Arab News asked the three other UK groups to comment on the report but none of them responded.