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Indonesia quake relief effort hampered by rain

Heavy rain is hampering relief efforts following last week’s devastating earthquake in Southern Sumatra, Indonesia, which killed 1,100 and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

“Rain is a big concern,” said aid agency CARE International UK’s shelter and reconstruction senior specialist Lizzie Babister. “It causes landslides that cause roads to be closed making access difficult.”

More than 100,000 homes have been destroyed, roads are blocked by debris, electricity is out and communications lines are down following the 7.6 magnitude quake on 30 September (see box).

“We’re looking at around 100,000 affected houses,” said Care International shelter adviser Seki Hirano, speaking to NCE from the quake-hit Pariaman district.

“Wells have been destroyed and the water supply system has failed.”

Seki Hirano, CARE International

“One village we have been to has been 95% destroyed. It seems like it was on an area of weaker soil − there were reports of water shooting out of the ground during the earthquake,” he said.

Many roads and bridges have been destroyed or blocked by landslides, making access difficult. Food and water for survivors is the biggest priority.

“Wells have been destroyed and the water supply system has failed,” said Hirano. “Locals are collecting rainwater and water tanks are being delivered. Food is the biggest need, as everything has been destroyed.”

Self-built residential buildings were worst hit as they are not covered by Indonesian earthquake codes. They are often built from unreinforced masonry, which does not perform well in earthquakes. Indonesian seismic codes were first introduced in 1970 and updated as recently as 2002. But many buildings are exempt.

Disaster management

“The current codes were brought in in 2002 for buildings of two storeys or more, but that would account for less than 2% of all building stock in the region,” said Arup Seismic Group associate director Zygmunt Lubkowski.

“Masonry is the cheapest building material for locals, but it is brittle and doesn’t work well in an earthquake.”

The Institution of Structural Engineers’ Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team (EEFIT) said that there was a “high likelihood” it would be sending a team to the area to look at the performance of the structures, collect geological and seismic data and study disaster management procedures. It would also assess the socioeconomic effects of the earthquake, including human casualties.

  • The Disaster Emergency Committee is appealing for donations to help those affected by last week’s earthquakes and typhoons. Visit

Indonesia Quake Facts

The 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck on 30 September shortly after 10am local time, approximately 50km west north west of Padang at 85km depth. A second 6.6 magnitude quake on 1 October caused further damage.

These quakes followed an even bigger undersea tremor of 8.0 in the South Pacific on 29 September, which triggered a huge tsunami that killed scores of people on the Samoan and Tonga islands. It occurred at a depth of 18km, 185km east north east of Hihifo, Tonga.

Indonesia’s quake devastated 10 districts in the Western Sumatra province.

More than 88,000 houses and 285 schools have been flattened, with another 100,000 public buildings and 36km of road damaged. In the capital, Padang, scores of tall buildings, including hotels, a shopping mall, mosques and schools collapsed. Government minister Aburizal Bakrie has said that £370M is needed to repair infrastructure.

School collapse

Damage: 285 schools collapsed

Readers' comments (1)

  • At 6.6M, the second quake must be one of the most severe aftershocks in history. I'm wondering which type of engineers would be most valuable during the first few days after a disaster such as this?

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