Strong quake hits off Indonesia, one reported dead

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Indonesian residents evacuate to higher grounds fearing a tsunami after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Indonesia, in Banggai on April 12, 2019. (AFP)
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This handout picture taken and released by Indonesia's Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB), the accident mitigation agency, on April 13, 2019 shows residents in Banggai gather in the open after a strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Indonesia on April 12, reportedly killing one person and triggering a brief tsunami warning that sent panicked residents fleeing to higher ground. (AFP)
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This handout picture taken and released by Indonesia's Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB), the accident mitigation agency, on April 13, 2019 shows rescuers evacuate residents in Banggai after a strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Indonesia on April 12, reportedly killing one person and triggering a brief tsunami warning that sent panicked residents fleeing to higher ground. (AFP)
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This photograph taken with a phone shows Indonesian residents rushing for higher ground fearing a tsunami after a strong 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Luwuk, in Central Sulawesi of eastern Indonesia on April 12, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 13 April 2019

Strong quake hits off Indonesia, one reported dead

  • Thousands in Palu were still living in makeshift shelters six months after the late September disaster with at least 170,000 residents of the city

LUWUK, Indonesia: A strong 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked eastern Indonesia on Friday, reportedly killing one person and triggering a brief tsunami warning that sent panicked residents fleeing to higher ground.
The quake struck at a relatively shallow depth of 17 kilometers (10 miles) off the east coast of Sulawesi island, the US Geological Survey said, where a 7.5-magnitude quake-tsunami around the city of Palu killed more than 4,300 people last year.
Three light-to-moderate aftershocks occurred in the same area following the initial quake Friday, USGS reported.
Indonesia’s disaster agency issued a tsunami warning for coastal communities in Morowali district, where residents were advised to move away from the coast.
The warning was later lifted by the agency, which had estimated the wave at under a half a meter (20 inches).
Video footage from Luwuk city showed scared residents — some carrying children — running from their homes and racing to higher ground on motorcycles.
The USGS warned that considerable damage was possible in poorly built or badly designed structures.
Hapsah Abdul Madjid, who lives in Luwuk city in Banggai district, Central Sulawesi, where the tremor was felt strongly, said people fled to higher ground and the electricity was cut, adding that residents panicked as fears soared over an imminent tsunami.
One person trying to flee fell and died, Kompas.com news website reported, citing a provincial health worker.
Kompas identified the victim as Daeng Pasang, 66.
The tremor off the eastern coast of Sulawesi is on the other side of the island from disaster-hit Palu, where residents still felt the quake despite being hundreds of kilometers away.
“I ran straight outside after the earthquake — everything was swaying,” 29-year-old Palu resident Mahfuzah told AFP.

Thousands in Palu were still living in makeshift shelters six months after the late September disaster, with at least 170,000 residents of the city and surrounding districts displaced and entire neighborhoods still in ruins, despite life returning to normal in other areas of the tsunami-struck city.
The force of last year’s quake saw entire neighborhoods levelled by liquefaction — a process where the ground starts behaving like a liquid and swallows up the earth like quicksand.
Apart from the damage to tens of thousands of buildings, the disaster destroyed fishing boats, shops and irrigation systems, robbing residents of their income.
Indonesia has said the damage bill in Palu topped $900 million. The World Bank has offered the country up to $1 billion in loans to get the city back on its feet.
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.
On boxing day December 26, 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck westernmost Aceh province, causing a tsunami and killing more than 170,000 in Indonesia.
Last year was also particularly tough, when Indonesia experienced more than 2,500 disasters ranging from a series of deadly earthquakes to killer landslides and volcanic eruptions.
The sprawling archipelago is dotted with more than 100 volcanoes, including one in the middle of the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands that erupted in late 2018 and unleashed a tsunami that killed more than 400 people.


A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

Updated 41 min 24 sec ago

A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

  • Will give migrants a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes torn apart by partition of 1947

NEW DELHI: Sparsh Ahuja and Ameena Malak grew up listening to their grandparents narrate stories of the partition from 1947.
Ahuja’s grandfather, Ishar Das Arora, was 7 years old when the Indian subcontinent was divided into two by the British, creating India and Pakistan. 
More than 14 million people were displaced at the time, and about one million perished in the fighting that followed.
Arora moved from a Pakistani village, named Bela, to Delhi after living in several refugee camps and escaping the violence.
Meanwhile, Malak’s grandfather, Ahmed Rafiq, moved from the Indian city of Hoshiarpur to Pakistan’s Lahore.
Now in their 70s, both the grandparents yearn to go back home and see the places where they were born and spent their childhoods. 
However, the constant uncertainty in the relationship between India and Pakistan and their old age has made the task of visiting their respective birthplaces extremely difficult.
To fulfill the wishes of their grandparents, and several others who yearn to visit their ancestral homelands, Ahuja and Malak decided to launch Project Dastaan (story).
“What started as an idea for a student project last year at Oxford University became a larger peace-building venture,” Ahuja, the director of the project, said.
Project Dastaan is a university-backed virtual reality (VR) peace-building initiative reconnecting displaced survivors of partition with their childhood through bespoke 360-degree digital experiences.
Backed by the South Asia Programme at Oxford, it uses VR headsets to give these migrants, who are often over 80 years old, a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes. It shows them the people and places they most want to see again by finding the exact locations and memories that the survivors seek to revisit, and recreates them.
“It is a creative effort to start a new kind of conversation based on the direct experience of a now-foreign country in the present, rather than relying upon records and memories from the past,” Ahuja told Arab News.
He added that Pakistan-based Khalid Bashir Rai “teared up after his VR experience, and told us we had transported him back” to his childhood.
“At its heart, the project is a poignant commentary on its own absurdity. By taking these refugees back we are trying to highlight the cultural impact of decades of divisive foreign policy and sectarian conflict on the subcontinent. This is a task for policymakers, not university students. In an ideal world, a project like this shouldn’t exist,” Ahuja said.
Other members of Project Dastaan — Saadia Gardezi and Sam Dalrymple — have a connection with partition, too. Gardezi grew up with partition stories; her grandmother volunteered at refugee camps in Lahore, and her grandfather witnessed terrible violence as a young man.
Dalrymple’s grandfather had been a British officer in India during the twilight years of the British Empire. So scarred was he by the partition that he never visited Dalrymple’s family in Delhi, even after 30 years of them living there.
“I think Dastaan is ultimately about stripping away the layers of politics and trying to solve a very simple problem: That children forced to leave their homes, have never been able to go back again,” Dalrymple told Arab News.
Ahuja added: “The partition projects are a peace offering in the heart of hostility. It is an attempt at creating a wider cultural dialogue between citizens and policymakers of the three countries.”
The project aims to reconnect 75 survivors of the partition of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh with their childhood memories, when the subcontinent observes 75 years of partition in 2022.
Project Dastaan is also producing a documentary called “Child of Empire” that will put viewers in the shoes of a 1947 partition migrant, and will be shown at film festivals and museums.