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.


‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

Updated 23 min 57 sec ago
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‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

  • Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise
  • It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago

COLOMBO: One month after the Sri Lanka suicide attacks that killed more than 250 people, investigators have told AFP the bombers used “Mother of Satan” explosives favored by the Daesh group that are a new sign of foreign involvement.
Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise.
They named the explosive as triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, an unstable but easily made mixture favored by Daesh militants who call it “Mother of Satan.”
It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago.
Daesh has claimed the Sri Lankan bombers operated as part of its franchise. But Sri Lankan and international investigators are anxious to know just how much outside help went into the attacks that left 258 dead and 500 injured.
“The group had easy access to chemicals and fertilizer to get the raw materials to make TATP,” an official involved in the investigation told AFP.
Sri Lankan detectives say the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), local militants blamed for the attacks, must have had foreign help to assemble the bombs.

“They would have had a face-to-face meeting to transfer this technology. This is not something you can do by watching a YouTube video,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Investigators had initially believed that C4 explosives — a favored weapon of Tamil Tiger rebels — were used, but forensic tests found TATP which causes more burning than C4.
Police have also confirmed that 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives found in January in the island’s northwest was TATP.
They are checking the travel records of the suicide bombers as well as foreign suspects to see when and where bomb-making lessons could have been staged.
“It looks like they used a cocktail of TATP and gelignite and some chemicals in the Easter attacks. They were short of the 100 kilos of raw TATP that were seized in January,” said the investigator.
Sri Lankan security forces have staged a series of raids since the bombings. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said Sunday that 89 suspects are in custody.
Army chief Mahesh Senanayake said last week that at least two suspects have been arrested in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, underscoring the international link.
On April 26, six militants, three widows of the suicide bombers and six of their children were killed at an NTJ safe house near the eastern coastal town of Kalmunai.
Police found large quantities of chemicals and fertilizer there that was probably meant to make bombs, authorities said.
The government has admitted that Indian warnings of the looming attacks in early April were ignored.
But President Maithripala Sirisena has said eight countries are helping the investigation. A US Federal Bureau of Investigation team is in Sri Lanka and Britain, Australia and India have provided forensic and technical support.
China offered a fleet of vehicles to bolster the mobility of the security forces tracking down militants.

The Sri Lankan who led the attacks, Zahran Hashim, was known to have traveled to India in the months before he became one of the suicide bombers.
Moderate Muslims had warned authorities about the radical cleric who first set off alarm bells in 2017 when he threatened non-Muslims.
He was one of two bombers who killed dozens of victims at Colombo’s Shangri-La hotel on April 21.
Army chief Senanayake said Hashim had traveled to Tamil Nadu state in southern India and been in contact with extremists there.
Hashim, one of seven bombers who staged the attacks, also appeared in an Daesh group video that claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Another bomber who was meant to have hit a fourth hotel, has been named as Abdul Latheef Jameel who studied aviation engineering in Britain and Australia.
Authorities in the two countries are investigating whether he was radicalized whilst abroad.
Jameel blew himself up when confronted at a hideout after the attacks.