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

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.


Macron spearheads pressure on Bolsonaro over Amazon fires

Updated 3 min 5 sec ago

Macron spearheads pressure on Bolsonaro over Amazon fires

  • With global leaders gearing up for the G7 summit in the western French resort of Biarritz, Macron drew Bolsonaro’s ire by saying the wildfires would be high on the agenda
  • Bolsonaro had earlier blasted Macron for a colonialist mentality, prompting the French president hit back, accusing his Brazilian counterpart of lying in pledges to fight global warming

PARIS: France’s Emmanuel Macron led a growing wave of international pressure on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest Friday, telling him Paris would block efforts to seal a major trade deal.
With global leaders gearing up for the G7 summit, which opens Saturday in the western French resort of Biarritz, Macron drew Bolsonaro’s ire by saying the wildfires would be high on the agenda and pledging that delegates would hammer out “concrete measures” to tackle them.
Bolsonaro had earlier blasted Macron for a “colonialist mentality,” prompting the French president hit back, accusing his Brazilian counterpart of lying in pledges to fight global warming.
“Given the attitude of Brazil over the last weeks, the president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka (G20) summit” in June, a French presidential official said.
As a result, France would oppose a trade deal between the EU and South America’s Mercosur nations, effectively killing any chance of it being ratified, he said.
Moves to prioritize the Amazon wildfires on the G7 agenda won backing from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeting that the fires were “heartbreaking” and offering help to put them out.
But in a sign of EU disagreement, Germany said Macron’s proposal to block the Mercosur deal was “not the right response.”
“Failing to conclude the Mercosur agreement would not contribute to reducing the clearing of the rainforest in Brazil,” a German government spokesman told AFP.
So far this year, there have been 76,720 forest fires in Brazil — the highest number since 2013, official figures show, with more than half in the Amazon rainforest.
“The Amazon rainforest — the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire,” Macron tweeted late on Thursday, suggesting it be high on the summit agenda.
But Bolsonaro blasted the move to make it a G7 item without any participation by Brazil, saying it reflected a “colonialist mentality.”
The leaders of France, the US, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan already face a litany of issues in Biarritz, which is on a security lockdown for the summit.
Macron met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier Friday for last-minute talks trying to soothe tensions between Tehran and Washington.
A nuclear deal between Western powers and Iran all but collapsed after Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew US support in May 2018, reimposing economic sanctions on Tehran.
“We’re at a critical moment,” Macron warned on Wednesday, acknowledging that Iran is “laying out a strategy” for exiting the 2015 deal.
“President Macron made some suggestions last week to President (Hassan) Rouhani and we believe they are moving in the right direction, although we are not definitely there yet,” Zarif told AFP in an interview.
He said he had a “good discussion” with the French leader, who would now hold talks with other European leaders to seek a way forward.
Macron’s diplomacy is a delicate task, with France seeking to roll back some of the US measures imposed as part of Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran, which insists its nuclear program is peaceful.
French diplomats have raised the idea of US waivers on sanctions affecting Iranian oil exports to India and China, or a new credit line for Tehran that could help the struggling economy.
That prompted Trump to accuse Macron of sending Tehran “mixed signals” in his attempt to broker fresh talks between the longtime adversaries.
But Trump appears to be the outlier among America’s G7 partners on Iran, despite speculation that Johnson, who claims a close personal rapport with the US leader, might be more amenable to endorsing his stance.
On Friday, a British diplomatic source said the UK would continue to back the 2015 nuclear deal, which it helped broker, as the “best way” of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Iran is just one of a host of issues over which G7 members are at loggerheads, upending a formerly cosy club of rich nations.
Trump will arrive in the glitzy beachside resort on Saturday already riled by a new French law increasing taxes on US Internet giants such as Google and Facebook. He is also threatening tariffs on the European automobile sector.
Just before the summit, China fired the latest salvo in its trade war the US, announcing new tariffs on $75 billion of American imports.
But in a sign of the summit’s lowered ambitions, French officials have scrapped the idea of a joint declaration at the end, breaking a longstanding G7 tradition.