South Asia April 11th: Nias residents use disaster preparedness infrastructure effectively
NIAS [ACTED News] - Residents of Lahewa Sub-District, a coastal area of North Nias, were doubly panicked yesterday during the 8.5 on the Richter scale earthquake, aftershocks, and tsunami alert as their communities were impacted by both the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the early 2005 Sumatran earthquake that devastated the island. There are around 21,000 people living in 20 villages in the area and the violent tremors around 3:30 pm Western Indonesian time (9:30 am GMT) yesterday sent most running out of their houses and to high ground. Nias lies directly on the Sunda Trench subduction zone and earthquakes are a weekly, if not daily occurrence.
ACTED has been working with Nias population since 2005. First to provided relief and recovery assistance shortly after the earthquake in 2005 and continues to work with communities in the north and western districts to improve fishing and farming livelihoods, disaster preparedness, local governance, and child protection.
In 2009-2010, ACTED implemented a project to train local disaster management structures in 10 villages, initiate school disaster preparedness curriculum and simulation drills for teachers and students, and to fund community-based mitigation measures. Constructing and equipping evacuation points were among the projects proposed by communities, and the bright blue shelters are notable in the communities where ACTED worked. Although many are used regularly for community meetings and other non-disaster activities, they served their original purpose yesterday during the massive earthquake. “All families in coastal villages evacuated yesterday during the earthquake; most went to evacuation points like the one built by ACTED in Sineasi village. People stayed in the evacuation shelter all night because we continued to feel aftershocks, and only returned home on morning”, say Veni, former ACTED Lahewa staff.
Before the Pacific-wide tsunami alert was recalled by late evening yesterday, a small tsunami of one meter height hit the Lahewa coast, although no damage was reported. Fishermen who participated in business and livelihoods training implemented by ACTED reported suspending their fishing activities due to higher high water levels and fear of further tsunami alerts. “It didn’t look like a wave, said Ama, a fish seller in Lahewa, but the water seemed higher than usual.”
Although yesterday’s strike-slip quake caused neither a tsunami, nor major destruction, it was a potent reminder that Indonesians, especially those along the west coasts, live in a context of high disaster risk and that preparedness and mitigation programs are effective and necessary. According to local news reports, the effectiveness of NGO assistance efforts was praised by local authorities, saying that frequent drills and training programs help residents avoid complacency during emergencies, and facilitated fast, independent action by communities themselves during yesterday’s earthquake.
In 2009-2010, ACTED implemented a project to train local disaster management structures in 10 villages, initiate school disaster preparedness curriculum and simulation drills for teachers and students, and to fund community-based mitigation measures, funded by the Spanish Development Cooperation (AECID).
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