Indonesia marks one year since deadly quake-tsunami disaster

This picture taken on September 25, 2019 shows 9-year-old Rafi Adit Putra sitting on a swing near his living place. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 September 2019

Indonesia marks one year since deadly quake-tsunami disaster

  • On Boxing Day 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 across the Indian Ocean region

PALU, Indonesia: Indonesia on Saturday marked one year since a devastating quake-tsunami disaster pounded the city of Palu, killing more than 4,000 people.

Mass prayers are expected later in the day to remember victims of the 7.5 magnitude quake and subsequent deluge that razed swathes of the coastal city on Sulawesi island last September.

Some 4,300 people were listed as dead or missing while nearly 60,000 people are still living in makeshift accommodation after their homes were destroyed, according to the Red Cross.

The force of the impact saw entire neighborhoods levelled by liquefaction — a process where the ground starts behaving like a liquid and swallows up the earth like quicksand.

It also destroyed fishing boats, shops and irrigation systems, robbing locals of their income. Rebuilding has been slow and many of the people still living in temporary shelters wonder if they’ll ever have a home again.

“I’ve been living in this tent since the quake struck,” said Ela, a mother of four. “It’s been really hard. My kids got sick, it’s hot and sometimes we have to sleep on wet ground after it rains. The kids’ father is still working but we can’t afford to buy mattresses,” she added.

Nani, another mother of four kids, said her home was destroyed in the disaster. “I don’t know if I’m going to get permanent housing,” she added.

Hundreds of damaged schools across the region have not been repaired. Many “are so badly affected they remain too dangerous to use, forcing children to learn in temporary classrooms where they have to attend in shifts due to a lack of space,” Save the Children said Saturday.

Earlier the World Bank 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.

The Southeast Asian archipelago is also dotted with more than 100 volcanoes, including one that erupted between Java and Sumatra in late 2018 and unleashed a tsunami that killed more than 400 people.

On Boxing Day 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 across the Indian Ocean region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia.


3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

Updated 28 February 2020

3,000-strong African force planned against Sahel extremism

  • The force would be a significant new player in the Sahel where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year
  • The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: African leaders have decided to work on deploying 3,000 troops to West Africa’s troubled Sahel region as extremist attacks surge, an African Union official said Thursday.
The force would be a significant new player in the sprawling, arid region south of the Sahara Desert where fighters linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group killed thousands of people last year — at times working together in an unprecedented move.
The decision by African leaders comes as the United States considers cutting its military presence in Africa while urging African solutions to African problems. That has sparked pressure from worried security allies including France and regional countries as well as a rare bipartisan outcry among lawmakers in Washington.
Smail Chergui, the African Union commissioner for peace and security, relayed the new troop decision that was taken at the recent AU summit during a meeting Thursday with visiting European Union officials.
The AU continental body is expected to work with the West African regional counterterror force G5 Sahel as well as the West African regional body ECOWAS, which has formed peacekeeping units in the past, Chergui said.
ECOWAS in September announced what Chergui called a “very bold” plan to counter extremism in the region, including mobilizing up to $1 billion through 2024.
“As you see and recognize yourself, the threat is expanding and becoming more complex,” Chergui said. “Terrorists are now even bringing a new modus operandi from Afghanistan and Al-Shabab” in Somalia.
It was not immediately clear what the next steps would be in forming the AU force for the Sahel, which has become the most active region in Africa for extremist attacks.
The force would join France’s largest overseas military operation, the 5,100-strong Barkhane, and the 15,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali, one of the hardest-hit countries in the attacks along with Burkina Faso and Niger.