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Jakarta Post

Earthquakes, tsunamis and floods: Unlearning the past

  • David Meigh


Jakarta   /   Tue, October 9, 2018   /  09:07 am
Earthquakes, tsunamis and floods: Unlearning the past Darkest hours: An aerial photograph taken from a Smart Aviation-owned Cessna 208 Caravan shows Palu, the capital city of Central Sulawesi, on Tuesday evening, five days after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit the region, causing blackouts. (The Jakarta Post/Dhoni Setiawan )

It is with some sadness that I have watched the news footage from Palu, Central Sulawesi, a city I lived in for a year when working on the Gumbasa irrigation project in the valley. I had experienced this before from three years living in Banda Aceh, then returning after the tsunami to rebuild irrigation schemes. 

During some 30 years working around Indonesia and Southeast Asia, it appears Indonesians have unlearned the past. Traditional villages are based on high ground, have timber framed buildings with flexible joints that sway in earthquakes but don’t collapse. 

Traditional houses on Nias, North Sumatra, have a unique arrangement of inclined floor beams that flex to absorb earthquake forces. 

Indigenous houses close to rivers are built on stilts well above flood levels. At the coast, villages were set back behind belts ...

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.