Tsunami Displaces Thousands in Indonesia

The Anak Krakatau volcano dangerously spews hot ash and lava into the air. The ground trembles as the volcano abruptly begins to erupt, and a 158-acre piece of the volcano falls into the nearby ocean. A wall of water 16 feet high begins to rush towards the shore and envelopes the beachfront within a matter of seconds.

More than 420 people were killed as this devastating tsunami crashed ashore in Indonesia on December 22, 2018, and about two thousand others were injured. With a very high tide and already record rainfall, the coastline community near the Sunda Strait was further ravaged by these high waves.

Because the area is home to much seismic activity, the officials in Indonesia have usually been very vigilant about sounding tsunami alerts.  But this time, disaster struck without any prior warning. There were no earthquake tremors to set off the warning system, and it is beyond Indonesia’s current technology to be able to detect approaching tsunamis without prior seismic activity. As a result, by the time residents on shore heard the loud boom of the volcano eruption and observed a huge wave heading towards them, they could only try to flee to higher ground and had little time to prepare.

In the wake of this recent tsunami, Indonesian leaders have pledged to try to implement a new tsunami warning system in the near future. Previous attempts in the past few years to build and maintain a warning system solely based on approaching tsunami waves have not been very successful because of a lack of money, but now more and more individuals are saying that such a system in this disaster-prone region is vital.  

After this latest tsunami, almost 22,000 people lost their homes or had to evacuate to temporary shelters. Entire communities were wiped out. One disaster management official had remarked, “Our teams are seeing many broken bones and broken homes, and people who are very shaken. Indonesians have withstood a string of disasters this year and with them, so much loss and misery.” Originally, Indonesia allowed foreign aid to come and assist the needy, but as of mid-October, the Indonesian government has made things more difficult for people by ordering most of the foreign aid organizations and their workers to leave the country.  

Just this past summer, Indonesia was hit by a series of earthquakes that caused landslides and left hundreds of civilians dead.  Then this September, more than two thousand people were killed by an earthquake and a tsunami. In October, a large plane crashed after taking off from the Indonesian city of Jakarta, and all 189 passengers on board died.  Yet all this tragedy comes in light of the fact that December 26th marked the 14-year anniversary of the 9.1 magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami that killed around 230,000 people and struck numerous countries around the Indian Ocean, with Indonesia being the hardest hit nation.   

Such widespread grief and the extensive destruction has caused much pain and fear, but countless people continue to persevere and hold on to the hope that they will rebuild and come back stronger.  

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”  – Isaiah 43:1a-2  




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