Indonesian military quick to provide earthquake aid

Indonesian military quick to provide earthquake aid

Tom Abke

Indonesia’s National Armed Forces responded quickly to a series of deadly earthquakes and aftershocks that rocked the island of Lombok in late July and early August 2018 by flying in relief supplies, performing rescues and providing shelter.

The first major quake of the summer shook the Indonesian resort island on the morning of July 29, 2018, with a magnitude of 6.4 on the Richter scale. The earthquake killed 20 people and injured hundreds more, according to the Indonesian news agency Antara. Electricity and telecommunications were disrupted, and landslides trapped hundreds of hikers in what locals described as the worst earthquake in the island’s history.

Four more earthquakes in August 2018 were even worse. Each equaled or exceeded the intensity of the July quake, ranging from 6.4 to 7.0. The most severe struck on August 5, 2018, causing heavy damage in Lombok and nearby Bali. By August 25, 2018, Jakarta’s Ministry of Social Affairs had reported 556 dead from the series of summer earthquakes.

On August 6, 2018, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced the deployment of relief agencies and the Indonesian National Armed Forces, called Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI). A Hercules A-1320 supply plane was flown in, TNI’s Maj. Gen. M. Sabrar Fadhilah told FORUM, carrying tons of “milk, coffee, tea, fresh drink, biscuits, snacks, instant noodles and soy sauce,” along with tents, water purifiers and clothes.

The TNI health team also deployed to Lombok in three helicopters to aid with evacuations and deliver logistic and health supplies to isolated areas. The Army dispatched a pair of spine specialists to help quake victims with spinal column injuries. (Pictured: Indonesian Soldiers assist a young earthquake victim at an emergency hospital on the island of Lombok.)

“Indonesia is located in the ring of fire,” Fadhilah said, referring to the Pacific basin earthquake and volcano zone. “TNI is always ready for action in every situation. Our personnel have all been trained for emergency situations. So, if there is any situation or disaster, we could be the first to get ready.”

Fadhilah emphasized that TNI works closely with Indonesia’s National Agency for Disaster Countermeasure-Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNBP). Operations are coordinated with local governments.

In Lombok, TNI set up a headquarters to supervise the movement and operation of its 2,600 personnel deployed there, as well as the use of heavy equipment and a coordination center with other agencies, such as BNPB, National Search and Rescue and local government.

As of August 24, 2018, TNI personnel were engaged in cleanup operations, Fadhilah said, using heavy equipment to clear out ruined structures. Meanwhile, other TNI personnel are gathering data on the extent of the damage to make way for reconstruction.

With rains on their way, he added, civilians rendered homeless have been moved into temporary structures.

“I think every disaster presents its own difficulties,” Fadhilah said. “We need to stay in standby and alert mode, both personnel and also equipment. We also need to improve our disaster management in order to be faster, but overall we had a good response as the first response team.”

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.