Rumours and Aftershocks Follow Earthquake

DENPASAR

The earthquake that shook Bali last week damaged at least 19 buildings in Denpasar and injured at least 81 people.

The 6.8-magnitude quake that struck on Thursday morning was followed by at least 18 aftershocks through the rest of the day.

Homes, schools, temples and offices were damaged, with some roofs and ceilings collapsing and vehicles suffering damage.

“We are estimating a loss of about Rp1 billion (US$133,600),” said Denpasar City Government spokesman Dewa Gede Rai.

Rai said the damage to municipal properties was worst in South Denpasar. He said that the city government would cover the cost of treatment for residents injured during the quake.

“We will bear the entire cost of treatment for earthquake victims. In addition, we also will pay for the repair of public facilities, especially schools,” he said. At least 56 people reported injuries due to the quake in Denpasar.

Denpasar Mayor IB Rai Dharmawijaya Mantra, visited damaged schools at the weekend and said disaster management training for students and teachers would be put in place to ensure smooth evacuation processes in case of future quakes. Among those injured were three students from a vocational school in the city who were hurt when a classroom roof collapsed.

“In the aftermath of the recent quake we saw that many people were injured when they tried to escape in a panic. They eventually fell down or were trampled upon by the other people,” Mantra said. “This reflects the fact that our people are not well-prepared to deal with an emergency situation.”

“I have asked all relevant agencies to draw up a plan for a crisis management program. Public education, including simulations and trainings, will be a key point in this programme,” he said, adding that all public buildings would be required to have emergency equipment and designated emergency exits.

Island-wide the quake is estimated to have caused around Rp2.9 billion ($328,000) in damage.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said that while extensive damage had been done to homes and public buildings, no one appeared to have been left homeless.

“We have decided that there is no need to set up any emergency response posts,” he said, adding that as of Monday only four people remained hospitalised as a result of injuries caused by the quake.

“All the other victims have been sent home. Most of them suffered head injuries. The local administration is covering medical expenses,” Sutopo said.

Perry Markus of the Bali branch of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) said he was unaware of any reports of significant cancellations by tourists as a result of the quake.

“After the quake, everything seems to have returned to normal,” he said, though he added that panic and inefficient evacuation procedures in the immediate aftermath meant that improvements needed to be made by hotels and other hospitality businesses.

“That they did so shows that hotels here and their staff still have much to learn in terms of disaster response,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) in Bali said that in light of the recent quake people should be ready to follow official warnings about tsunamis, rather than responding to gossip and unattributed text messages.

Endro Tjahjono, head of Data and Information at BMKG, said claims that the tsunami warning sirens had sounded on Thursday shortly after the quake were untrue as it had been established that there was no threat of tsunami, and a flurry of mobile phone and social networking website messages claiming that a tsunami was imminent were irresponsible and unfounded.

“It’s not true; I repeat, not true. There are six early warning sirens, and they are always checked on the 26th of each month. But they did not sound during Thursday’s earthquake,” Tjahjono said, adding that people should disregard any SMS they received claiming to be an official warning from BMKG. Official information about warning systems could be found on the agency’s website, www.bmkg.go.id, he said.

Tjahjono said the sustained aftershocks that followed the quake were mostly not strong enough to cause damage, and stressed that a further rumour, prevalent in electronic media on Thursday afternoon that BMKG was expecting a 7.9-magnitude quake, were false.

“I wish to make it clear that this is also untrue because there is currently no tool that can detect when an earthquake will happen,” he said.

Tjahjono said Bali was in an earthquake-prone location, with multiple minor tremors recorded almost every day.

“Bali is indeed an earthquake-prone area with an average of 10 tremors a day. It is situated near where the Eurasian plate and Australian plates meet,” he said.

Past major quakes in the island included one in 1917 which killed around 1,500 people, another in 1976 in which 560 people died, mostly in north Bali, and a 6.4-magnitude quake in Karangasem in 1979 that killed 25 people.

Anom Agustina of the Disaster Response and Management Centre for Bali said the island’s long coastline also made it vulnerable to tsunamis; hence the six early warning sensors and sirens, located at Sanur, Kuta Beach, Nusa Dua, Tanjung Benoa, Kedonganan and Seminyak.

Agustina said the early warning equipment was connected to the Centre’s headquarters in Denpasar, but he added that ideally Bali required a total of 86 such pieces of equipment, one for each five kilometres of coastline.

“It’s expensive, though. Each unit can cost up to Rp1 billion. We’re trying to procure these instruments from the provincial budget. For the initial phase, we are planning to procure several units to be installed in north Bali,” he said.

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