Poor urban planning and over population have become the main challenges for city administrations in their efforts to minimize fatalities in times of disasters, officials and experts have said.
Sugeng Triutomo, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB)’s deputy head for disaster prevention and preparedness, said Tuesday that poor disaster mitigation and preparedness have put people at high risk.
“We still have limited regulations and policies on disaster preparedness and mitigation for people in urban areas, making them prone to the impacts of disasters,” he said on the sidelines of a presentation at the Learning from Japan 4th Symposium 2012 titled “Urban society’s vulnerability, disaster preparedness and mitigation in Indonesia and Japan”.
Earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding and landslide are disasters that commonly affect urban dwellers, who also face additional risks from avian flu, pollution and terrorism.
“We need to tackle floods, which affect Jakarta every year. Bird flu also continuously affects urban areas,” said Sugeng.
To minimize disaster’s impacts on urban areas, BNPB has mapped disaster risk areas at the provincial level. “We are trying to support the government by issuing the mapping of high-risk areas and assisting local authorities in designing contingency plans,” Sugeng said.
Based on the plan, local authorities apply policies to better protect their people against disasters. The Jakarta administration, for example, is building canals to avoid floods, and plans to create more green space.
Being a country prone to natural disasters, Japan has long applied disaster countermeasures for urban areas. However, evacuation processes during the tsunami were still varied, implying the need for further improvements.
Some residents of Miyagi prefecture, for example, started to evacuate right after the massive earthquake, which later was followed by a tsunami. “They started to evacuate within 30 minutes after the earthquake and the tsunami came more than 30 minutes after. They could go to safety,” said Atsushi Tanaka, a researcher from the Center for Integrated Disaster Information Research (CIDIR) at the University of Tokyo, Japan.
With such a quick evacuation, he said, only 5 percent of people were caught by the tsunami.
Others, however, evacuated after they finished doing something, resulting in bigger number of victims. “When the earthquake occurred, many people were still at work. Worried about the safety of their family members, they returned home instead of starting evacuate,” Tanaka told The Jakarta Post. As a result, 7 percent of people were caught by the tsunami as they took more time to evacuate.
In addition, other groups of people started to evacuate only after they saw the actual destruction by the tsunami. “They started to evacuate about 30 minutes after the earthquake occurred, and thus, were entrapped in very dangerous situation,” he said, adding that 49 percent people with such evacuation behavior were caught by the tsunami.
However, he said, some rational reasons led people to postpone their evacuation plans. “Some people worried about their family’s safety, while the others guided their senior and disabled family members that couldn’t evacuate by themselves.”