Sunday, January 23, 2005

Crisis in Aceh ~ Ongoing Afterthought (1)

It’s Sunday, Jan. 23, 2005. Exactly one month after an earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC (7:58:53 am local time), measured 9.0 on the Richter Scale of the west coast on northern Sumatra set off a series of other earthquakes lasting 12 hours on the 26th of December (from 00:58 to 11:05 UTC), 2004 led to widespread catastrophe particularly in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and Maldives with damage also in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Somalia and Seychelles. The epicentre was located under sea water at 3.32oN 95.85oE.

[Click here for where the disaster struck and interactives and graphics.]

The widespread catastrophic tsunami that for once, again, has united people on this planet. I believe most of you have read a lot of eloquent, touching, and as-matter-of-fact editorials, articles, interviews, and other types of media coverage. Here is just another one. Maybe be it’s not as eloquent as what you’ve read and seen, but it comes from my heart.

I first read about this tsunami on Internet on the 27th of December 2004. No news yet from TV... at least not to my knowledge. The claimed casualties at that time were about 5,000. Then it increased exponentially by hours… and by the night of Dec 27 it already climbed to around 10,000. By Jan 7 the death toll climbed to 147,000… not to mention hundreds of thousands of unaccounted loss in villages with no sign of life!

I know that Indonesia sits on the southwest periphery of Pacific’s ring of fire. The archipelago that resides at the meeting point of several plate tectonics has blessed us with rich natural resources. As a former geologist I was aware of the efforts that scientists and engineers put to seek the most sensitive earthquake-alert device. Seismologists and seismographs have come a long way to address this issue. Of course Indonesia has all monitoring instruments for natural disaster—but whether they are in good working condition or match the needs is not really a concern. Moreover, the Indonesian’s authorities, to my recollection so far, haven’t taken this matter seriously. Usually people would make a big fuss after large-scale natural disasters… but that’s all. It would subside considerably after other eminent issues come to the country’s forefront interests.

The proximate location of the epicentre to the northwestern part of Sumatera Island reasonably caused destruction beyond imagination. However, during the first couple of days, if not a week, I could see and read heart-rending coverage mostly came from Thailand (Phuket’s tourist destination area) and Sri Lanka. Virtually there was no important and in-depth coverage from Indonesia. For those of you who are foreign to Indonesia’s internal affair in Aceh you probably do not understand why news from the worst hit area have always come much later and with very little content compared to those from Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, or even Maldives. Aceh was pretty much isolated from the outside world after its prolonged internal conflict between GAM (Free Aceh Movement) and the military.

Follow these links for complete history of Aceh and its internal conflict:

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