Former mayor Rusdy Mastura remains lost in thought about the great loss of human lives — 2,000 deaths and 5,000 missing souls — in the wake of the Sept. 28 quake in Central Sulawesi that devastated what was his area of jurisdiction, Palu.

by Ruslan Sangadji

His biggest lament was that local authorities did not take seriously a contingency plan his administration created in 2012 in anticipation of a major earthquake that could have struck Palu at any time, knowing that the beach-front city of 367,500 people sits on an active 500-kilometer fault line stretching from Palu Bay in the north to Bone Bay in the south. Called “Skenario 2012”, the document details what the city should do if a magnitude-7.4 quake shakes the robust town. The scenario is about a massive tsunami able to destroy the city’s iconic Yellow Bridge, hotels and shopping malls close to the beach and advises what the town should do when the disaster comes. “Our scenario matches what happened on the evening of Sept. 28, except that the quake occurred at 6 p.m. instead of 2 a.m. as we imagined in the contingency plan,” says Rusdy, who was in off...