Tsunami brings destruction to Indonesia

Struggle: Palu has been left without power and with limited drinking water.

Could the disaster in Indonesia have been prevented? Last week, a lethal tsunami hit the city of Palu just as an official tsunami warning was called off. A race is on to help survivors.

What’s happening

At 6pm local time last Friday, the Indonesian island of Sulawesi was rocked by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake. The quake triggered a tsunami, which engulfed the coastal city of Palu. At least 1,350 people died and a huge operation is underway to get supplies and medicine to survivors cut off by the destruction.

Find out more

Tsunamis happen when underwater earthquakes create powerful waves, which can travel up to 500 mph.

While they are rare, they are more common in Indonesia because the country sits on the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire”, where the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates causes lots of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

Indonesia’s worst disaster was in 2004, when it was one of 14 countries to be hit by a huge tsunami that claimed more than 230,000 lives.

Some experts say fewer people would have died last week if the Indonesian government had sent a proper tsunami warning and spent more money on alert systems. Many people in Palu were still on the beach when the tsunami struck, unaware of the danger.

Could the disaster have been prevented?

Some say…

We cannot control nature, but we can be prepared. The tsunami was missed because the nearest sensor to detect unusual waves was 125 miles away from Palu. In a country where earthquakes happen frequently, they should have been more prepared. The government should invest in better technology, stronger buildings and clearer evacuation plans.

Others think…

Sometimes there is nothing you can do. Even if the tsunami had been detected in Palu, the people on the beach would have had just minutes to get away. That is what makes natural disasters so terrifying — they are unpredictable and inescapable. Sometimes nature is just too powerful for humans to stop.

You Decide

  1. Would you ever move to a country that had regular earthquakes?

Activities

  1. Design a poster on how to stay safe in an earthquake, including drawings. Your advice could include taking cover under a desk or table, staying away from windows, and finding a clear area if you are outside.

Some People Say...

“You have no control over natural disaster. That’s what’s scary about it.”

R.L. Stine

What do you think?

Word Watch

Magnitude
The magnitude scale measures how strong earthquakes are from one to 10.
Tsunami
A powerful, tall wave caused by an earthquake.
Mph
Miles per hour.
Tectonic plates
The surface of the Earth is divided into different plates, which move very slowly over millions of years. When two plates push against each other, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can happen.
Evacuation
Moving people from an area of danger to a safe place.
Inescapable
It cannot be escaped or avoided.

Subjects

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