Drought – formed by a significant, extended period of dry weather and limited rainfall – is particularly common across some of the ASEAN region’s drier areas. However, history has shown that drought is not confined to just those locations, with it known to impact communities and livelihoods from traditionally rainy climate, and can even be felt significantly outside of the directly-affected region.
Defining drought can be relatively complex, due to the fact that it is based not on a set precipitation figure – but compared to the average amount of precipitation experienced in a specific location. Therefore, a recognised drought situation in a tropical region (known for high rates of rainfall) may still be seen as very wet when compared to an arid location. However, we can simply determine that a drought is recognised when an area receives significantly less precipitation than it is used to, and does so over an extended period of time.
A key difference with drought, when compared to other disaster types, is its slow-onset nature. While earthquakes, floods and volcanoes strike quickly and often unexpectedly, drought slowly manifests over weeks and months of little-to-no rainfall. Sometimes bursts of rainfall may provide short-term relief, however the beginning and end of drought periods are usually only determined once the disaster has truly finished. Drought is most-often caused by changes or disruptions to the normal weather patterns (such as through winds or atmospheric circulation), with the increasing onset of climate change impact also linked to many drought situations.
IMPACTS OF DROUGHT IN ASEAN
It was recently reported by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) that droughts have impacted over 60 million ASEAN citizens throughout the past 30 years, with such estimations considered conservative due to traditional underreporting of drought based on its slow-onset context. Through a study produced to support ASEAN disaster risk reduction under the ASEAN-UN Joint Strategic Plan of Action on Disaster Management, significant increases in the future impact of drought in the region were highlighted, particularly with increased detrimental impact of climate change on ASEAN communities.
Key challenges faced by ASEAN when facing drought include the tendency of high impact on farming communities and regions, increasing vulnerability for those who rely on agriculture as their primary source of income – including in Lao PDR (61% of citizens), Viet Nam (41%), Indonesia (31%), Cambodia (27%) and the Philippines (26%). Alongside this, drought conditions also tend to impact most heavily on poorer communities, increasing inequality and therefore the risk of conflict. The report calls on starting interventions now to reduce the impacts of drought, protect the poorest communities and foster more harmonious societies.
RISK OF SECONDARY DISASTERS
Drought impact and conditions also increase significant risk of a range of secondary disasters – or disasters that occur due to conditions impacted by drought. Flooding can increase in risk in drought-affected areas, particularly when flash rains arrive, with loose and dry topsoil adding to water runoff, alongside lack of flooding preparation by communities (due to ongoing dry weather). Landslides also become a significant risk, as land degradation and decreased plant life results in unstable and landslide-prone land areas. Fires clearly also increase in risk during drought conditions, as trees and plants become dry and more prone to ignition, while dry winds and lack of rain only add to fan the flames of any hotspots or flare-ups. As previously mentioned, human conflict (or human-influenced disaster) is also an increased risk due to drought, as inequality, hunger and forced displacement all become more prevalent the longer a drought continues.
While perhaps more challenging to prepare for than quick-onset disasters, ASEAN communities and governments must adopt new practices and policies to prepare for the forecasted increase in future droughts. Even in non-rural areas, efforts for water conservation and protection of green areas can support the overall context of drought mitigation. Working with farmers through new technology and drought-resistant crops, as well as promoting more sustainable land-use practices and more responsible water-use methods are all significant opportunities to help deal with the onset of drought. All parties clearly have a role in the preparation for and overcoming of future drought conditions in the region.
Written by : William Shea | Source : Ready for the Dry Years: Building resilience to drought in South-East Asia, United Nation Publication/ESCAP
Landslides are a common occurrence in the ASEAN region – particularly when heavy monsoonal rains are in season. They are a complex event, often caused by a mix of extreme weather and unstable soil dynamics, with their onset more likely taking place quickly and unexpectedly. Adding to the complexity is the constant development of new human settlements and buildings, many of which take place without proper consideration to location and risks – as well as adding to the instability of surrounding ground and soil formations. Coupled with an ever-changing climate and unpredictable weather, landslides continue to increase in number and threaten the lives and livelihoods of communities across ASEAN. There are, however, some simple steps that everyday citizens can take to ensure they are better-prepared should a landslide occur in their immediate area, and armed with this knowledge be more resilient in the face of a dangerous landslide.
While assessing the risk of landslides can be a scientific and technical process, there are some simple questions we can ask ourselves in order to identify landslide risks within our own homes and communities.
1. IS MY HOME BUILT IN A LANDSLIDE-POTENTIAL AREA?
High-risk areas for landslide are for homes on the side or at the bottom of steep hills, particularly in areas prone to heavy rains. Hilly areas that have been cleared of forest or experienced development (road or building) are also more susceptible to landslides, as are areas with visible water runoff flows.
2. HAVE THERE BEEN PREVIOUS LANDSLIDES IN MY AREA?
Landslides will often reoccur in a previous landslide location, due to the initial terrain and the increased instability due to the previous landslide. Aside from stories of previous landslides – alongside any registered occurrences – historic events can also be evidenced by fallen tree trunks, upheaved boulders and clear signs of land destruction.
3. ARE THERE VISIBLE SIGNS OF INSTABILITY, LEADING TO POTENTIAL LANDSLIDE IN THE FUTURE?
Cracks and crevices in land are strong signs of landslide potential, as are sunken areas of land or holes clearly caused by water drainage. Also look for structures (such as electricity poles or even buildings) that are leaning to the side, as this is a sure sign of land movement that could result in landslide.
FACING A LANDSLIDE
Although they can occur quickly and unexpectedly, there are a number of steps that everyday citizens can take to ensure they are better-prepared and ready to act should a landslide become imminent or occur at short notice.
1. READ THE ‘SIGNS’
Staying up-to-date with weather predictions and being prepared is imperative to ensure you can move at a moment’s notice. Keep a close eye on changes in your surroundings, and monitor any changes in land or surrounding environment that might point to an occurrence. Listen to heavy or other deep rumbling that may signify a landslide, and overall, if things don’t feel safe, follow your instinct and leave.
2. PREPARE AN EVACUATION PLAN
Most local governments will have a disaster evacuation plan, so make sure you learn it and share it with your family. Support this plan by making your own household evacuation plan – including what to do, each person’s responsibilities, and where to go if the time comes to evacuate.
3. READY A GRAB BAG
Having a Grab-Bag is imperative should you have to evacuate at short notice. Amongst other things, it should contain drinking water, nutritional food/snacks, spare warm clothes, a torch, a communication device, and important medication. It is best to place it in a waterproof bag, as evacuations from landslides will often take place in heavy rain and muddy conditions.
AFTER A LANDSLIDE
An area that has experienced a landslide may remain unstable for some time, however when it is considered safe to return, there are a number of things that require attention.
1. STAY AWAY
Initially, the safest option is to remain away from the landslide location, as to avoid being caught in any reoccurrence. You should look to authorities to provide assessment and information regarding when it is safe to return to your home after a landslide.
2. CHECK FOR INSTABILITY
Upon returning, survey your immediate area and check for signs of land instability surrounding your home. Check your home itself for cracks or shifts in the structure, as well as gas and electricity connections for signs of rupture. Do not stay in your home if there are still danger signs related to any of these things.
3. REPLANT DAMAGED GROUND
Longer-term, a great way to help avoid a landslide reoccurrence is to replant surrounding land with trees and bushes native to your area. This will help compact and stabilise the soil, as well as support draining and diverting groundwater runoff in future wet weather events.
Written by : William Shea | Photo : AHA Centre
DISASTER ASSESSMENT AND COORDINATION (UNDAC) – INDUCTION COURSE
The United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) is part of the international emergency response system, designed to help the United Nations and governments of disaster-affected countries during the first phase of a sudden-onset emergency. The UNDAC Induction Course forms a series of pre-induction webinars, followed by a 2-week intensive training course, which initiates members to the concept and methodology of UNDAC’s response work. Upon successful completion, new members will be placed on the UNDAC emergency roster, and are expected to make themselves available at least 2-3 times a year for emergency missions.
UNDAC is a global counterpart of the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ERAT), with its own mandates of assessment, coordination and information management fitting well with the ASEAN-ERAT design. From 14-26 July 2019, the Indonesian National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) – Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB) – hosted the latest UNDAC Global Induction Course at the Ina-DRTG Training Facility in Sentul, Bogor. This training, organised by the Emergency Response Support Branch of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), in collaboration with the BNPB, is the second time Indonesia has hosted the event since 2014. The workshop engaged 30 humanitarian professionals from numerous organisations from more than 15 countries, and included a number of staff from the AHA Centre, as well as the ASEAN-ERAT members from the ASEAN countries. The course itself was conducted by more than 20 facilitators, made-up of professionals from organisations such as UN OCHA, UNDAC, ACAPS, MapAction, Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF), International Humanitarian Partnership (IHP), and the AHA Centre.
The AHA Centre staff engaged in the training included Lawrence Anthony Dimailig (Assistant Director for Disaster Monitoring & Analysis) and Grace Endina (Preparedness & Response Officer), with both members identifying practices from the course that – if modified to suit the region’s context – could be applicable and valuable for ASEAN’s own ASEAN-ERAT Induction Course. Alongside this, the staff highlighted that learning the UNDAC methodology helps increase their understanding of how the UNDAC works, and supporting the strengthening of common understanding that will contribute towards better interoperability between the organisations when working together within the region.
Additionally, the course was also attended by 5 current ASEAN-ERAT members from Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, and Viet Nam. This also supports increasing the interoperability between UNDAC and ASEAN-ERAT and broadens understanding and context for those members engaged.
These themes formed the core of the AHA Centre’s key outcomes and benefits from their engagement in the UNDAC Induction Course. The engagement supports better interoperability between ASEAN-ERAT and UNDAC during large-scale emergency responses within the region, and the intensive training with hands-on exercises providing an appreciation as to how UNDAC tools work during emergency response. Increased understanding on these global mechanisms will benefit ASEAN-ERAT members, as well as NDMO officials, regarding synergies between national, regional and global mechanisms in order to increase a coordinated response in times of crisis. The engagement also supports the AHA Centre’s work towards realising the goal of ASEAN X.0 within the One ASEAN, One Response vision. Within this goal, ASEAN-ERAT and AHA Centre staff are envisioned to support the work of UNDAC during large-scale emergency responses outside of the ASEAN region itself. The course formed a platform for the ASEAN region and the AHA Centre to promote its regional mechanisms in a global environment, and to draw upon experiences responding alongside the United Nations – in particular during the 2018 Central Sulawesi Earthquake and Tsunami response.
Written by : Lawrence Anthony Dimailig | Photo : AHA Centre
THE AHA CENTRE
AS THE REGIONAL KNOWLEDGE HUB ON DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Enhancing disaster resilience in the region forms the ultimate objective of the AHA Centre as a regional disaster management knowledge hub. Knowledge will promote improved responses, as well as improved preparedness measures. Knowledge distilled from real experience is utilised to inform policy makers, as well as support affected community with the steps that need to be taken to prevent similar catastrophes from happening again. Promoting knowledge, therefore, is in-turn promoting disaster resilience.
The AHA Centre can play a number of crucial roles as a regional knowledge hub, including advocating for evidence-based policy making, promoting professionalism, supporting innovation around the region, managing a comprehensive database system, and sharing its experience in disaster management beyond the region.
Evidence-based policy ensures that policy development is based on actual, credible evidence. Evidence-based policy development approaches enable policy makers to make better strategic decisions, especially in the area of disaster management. The AHA Centre believes that this approach will help Member States in developing their resilience against disaster, as policy will be developed from tried and proven methods and actions. To advance this, the AHA Centre will partner with reputable universities and think tanks that can provide useful policy inputs to the governments of the ASEAN Member States based on reliable research.
Human resources are a critical component in overall disaster management, as they are the ones at the forefront, in the field, and directly in touch with affected communities. Developing capacity and professionalism for disaster workers will help enhance the quality of disaster response of Member States, as well as contribute positively to the overall disaster management system of the nation. To promote professionalism, the AHA Centre will work closely with a diverse range of partners – including universities, training institutions, and National Disaster Management Organisations (NDMOs) – to develop strong standards and capacity building activities.
The AHA Centre will also work to promote innovation in the management of disasters in the region. Innovation is the application of better solutions to existing challenges, and by promoting innovation in disaster management, the AHA Centre aims to encourage and facilitate the production of new ideas that will improve disaster mitigation and resilience in the region. New technologies form one of the main tools of innovation. However, innovation in disaster management not only includes technology, but also explores non-technological innovations, such as changing disaster structure mechanisms, improving processes, changing mind-sets and paradigms, building community resilience, and revising rules and regulations that can facilitate faster, more efficient, and more flexible emergency response operations.
As a knowledge hub, the AHA Centre also manages a comprehensive database system on disaster-related information in the region. Database management has long been identified as a key potential role for the AHA Centre as a knowledge hub. Under this role, the Centre collects diverse types of disaster information, including data on research, experts, disaster management professionals, and disaster management laws in the region among many others. By performing this role, the AHA Centre seeks to support the disaster community in the region by ensuring the availability of relevant information that can support decision-making processes, research initiatives, innovation, as well as partnership and networking between various stakeholders.
Finally, the AHA Centre should also work to share and disseminate ASEAN knowledge beyond the region. The Centre can disseminate ASEAN’s, as well as individual Member States’ knowledge, lessons and best practices across and beyond the ASEAN region, in line with the vision to develop ASEAN into a global leader on disaster management by 2025.
Written by : William Shea | Infographic : AHA Centre
THE ASEAN RISK MONITOR AND DISASTER MANAGEMENT REVIEW
As covered in Volume 49 of the Column, the AHA Centre’s publication and launch of the ASEAN Risk Monitor and Disaster Management Review (ARMOR) recently took place, with the publication aiming to bridge science with decision making in the region’s disaster management field. The journal, made-up of 10 unique chapters, stands as the first publication of its kind providing risk profile information specifically regarding the ASEAN region. As the sheer amount of accumulated knowledge and information on disaster in the region continues to grow, the first ARMOR publication opens a forum for critical analysis and synthesis of such information, aiming to inform policy making and disaster management operations, both within the region and outside. Importantly, the first edition also highlights best practices, trends and innovations in ASEAN disaster management, and provides the platform for further expansion of current ideas as well as facilitating a space for new considerations from some of the region’s leading disaster management minds.
NEW AND UNIQUE INSIGHTS
One of the stand-out features from ARMOR’s first edition is the range of new, innovative and unique information it provides regarding disaster management in the region. A modern and unique theme is raised in Chapter Five, as the authors take readers through the context of Natech: The Silent and Potentially Deadly Threat in ASEAN, that discusses the growing potential risk of Natech (technological incidence/disasters triggered by natural hazards) in ASEAN, and how the region can work to mitigate such risks. Such an area is becoming increasingly relevant as the region continues to develop, with the risks related to technological disaster due to natural hazards increasing alongside the increasing numbers of factories, hazardous material sites and technology-based infrastructure throughout ASEAN’s landscape.
Chapter Two (Most-at-Risk Cities in ASEAN That Must be Watched) also gives the readers a fresh update regarding research findings on risk of disaster for ASEAN cities, with new and updated data leading to some interesting and unexpected findings – some of which challenge traditional perceptions regarding disaster management in the region. Similar findings and unique circumstances are also delivered in Chapter One Trillion Dollar Multi-Hazard Risk Landscape in Southeast Asia article. An interesting discussion on Utilisation of Space-based Information for Supporting Emergency Response and Recovery takes place through Chapter 10, with the article developed based on actual emergency response experiences that utilised space-based information, alongside direct field observation, to inform operational decision making.
THE ASEAN REGION’S PROGRESS IN DISASTER MANAGEMENT
A key strength of ARMOR is its delivery of information related to the ‘state-of-play’ for disaster management in the ASEAN region. We are provided with a strong insight into the relevant topic of climate change and its impact on areas such as water, food and health security during disaster, with Chapter Three focused on Why Climate Change Matters for ASEAN. The conversation on early warning systems and their use and impact for ASEAN is also highlighted, with Chapter Five providing analysis and a snapshot of the State of Early Warning Systems in ASEAN. ARMOR also provides focus to the AHA Centre itself, particularly the opportunities for the AHA Centre to fully realise its role as a knowledge hub for disaster management. This interesting insight is covered through in Chapter Seven’s Regional Knowledge Hub for Disaster Management: Strategy, Policy and Practice in ASEAN, followed-on directly with Chapter Eight discussing the evolving roles of the AHA Centre in Regional Centrality and the Shift of Humanitarian Landscape: The Case of ASEAN. Such information is developed by analysing and comparing two uniquely different emergency response operations – super typhoon Haiyan and the earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi – providing readers not only a historical insight to the change that has evolved over time, but also the key areas in which the AHA Centre has established its role within the regional disaster management landscape.
KNOWLEDGE THAT CROSSES GENERATIONS
A great aspect of this ARMOR edition is the array of input from researchers and professionals covering different generations and skillsets, ensuring that the full scope of ASEAN disaster management is encompassed within the 10 chapters. We learn about the history of ASEAN disaster management and lessons learned through Achieving the ASEAN 2025 Vision for Disaster Management: Lessons from a Worthy Journey in Chapter Nine – a piece developed by seasoned researchers Alistair D. B. Cook and Lina Gong. In contrast, one of ASEAN’s up-and-coming disaster researchers, Juwita Nirmalasari, proposes an innovative way to accurately and immediately identify drought events that can be utilised by policy makers to engage in early and significant interventions, as the guest contributor in Chapter Six titled Application of Breaks for Additive Season and Trend (BFAST) for Drought Monitoring. This range of elements, mix of modern and historical outlooks, and the array of experiences and backgrounds provides balance and space for innovation throughout the entire journal. In reality, it represents how the ASEAN disaster management sector should be perceived throughout all of its efforts – combining experience and lessons learned based on research and data, while remaining open and ready to embrace new technology and innovative ideas from new generations of disaster managers moving through the ranks.
Written by : William Shea
INSIGHT INTO A UNIQUE PHENOMENON
For this Column Volume’s Insight, the AHA Centre invited a young contributor who was also one of its interns – Eviana Rosida – to develop an interesting and informative article. Evi’s current studies in disaster management see her focusing on the unique occurrence of tidal flooding, upon which she has developed this volume’s Insight article. For the ASEAN region, with a coastline 173,00 km in total length, and nine nations bordering the sea or having maritime zones, the potential for tidal flooding is significant. Increasing population density in coastal areas across the region also increases potential impact, while many high-density areas facing the sea are formed by coastal cities.
ABOUT TIDAL FLOODS
Tidal floods in coastal areas may happen due to the process of rising sea water, tidal waves (different from tsunami), the high flow of river water, or general sea level rises. Naturally, tropical cyclones can also trigger a tidal flood. A tidal flood is a flood due to the tidal process that inundates land/coastal areas that are located lower than the average sea level. Long ocean waves are related to tides, and are characterised by the rhythmic rise and fall of the sea surface after a period of several hours. A rising tide is usually referred to as the flow, while the decreasing tide is called the ebb.
There is also a connection between tides and the sun and moon. Tides are in their highest state when the moon is full or new, and high tidal times at a particular location can be estimated (but not exactly) associated with the position of the moon in the sky. Water at the end of the beach bordering the ocean never stays at a fixed height, but they always move up and down according to the tide cycle. These elements also have an impact on tidal flooding.
THE FORMATION OF TIDAL FLOOD PROCESS
As the tidal process undertakes its vertical movement of sea level, these shallow water waves are produced by the gravitational force of the moon and sun on the ocean. The intensity of the force varies according to the position of the moon, sun and earth, and as a result, large tides see the water (with the help of gravitational forces) flow into low places and fill the space, inundating these lower parts.
Tidal flood can be caused by anthropogenic activities, particularly due to land degradation. Human populations living in coastal areas result in high use of groundwater. This use of ground water that exceeds the limit of the groundwater’s ability to replenish is called exploitation, and can increase vulnerability to inundation due to tidal flooding. Tidal floods have hit several areas in Java, Indonesia for example, as the density of people who live on Java has an impact on land subsidence, with high groundwater exploitation causing water to easily inundate the land. The impact of tidal flood sees bodies of sea water causing damage to asphalt roads, and damage to motorised vehicles and bicycles. In addition, sea water that enters the land (sea water intrusion) causes the groundwater to taste salty, and meaning it cannot be used as raw material for drinking water or for daily needs. Salty groundwater can also have a significant negative effect on farming livelihoods in an inundated region.
TIDAL FLOOD PREVENTION
In the short-term, such events may be prevented by building dikes to withstand the tidal waves of sea water heading to the mainland. More long-term, the effect of tidal flooding can be reduced by planting mangroves. Mangrove forests play an important role as ocean wave breakers, retaining wind speeds, and as a habitat for various flora and fauna. Such biological prevention techniques can also be supported by physical development, such as building wall borders between sea and land to act as a wave breaker. Communities who live in coastal area must also be aware about rising sea levels, and reducing exploitation of groundwater so that land subsidence can be avoided.
PREPAREDNESS AND SAFETY TIPS
The ASEAN region faces flooding on a regular basis, that takes its toll on the lives, livelihoods and economies of the region’s communities. Of the 1,586 disasters monitored by the AHA Centre in 2018 across ASEAN, 56.5% were floods, a large majority of which were experienced by Indonesia, as well as frequently affecting communities in Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Such constant occurrences also provide us with a better opportunity to understand and prepare for flooding emergencies, in order to lighten the impact should your home be inundated by floodwaters. The following tips and processes can be applied and implemented throughout the ASEAN region, to help ensure the safety of you, your family and your property should water levels rise.
BEFORE A FLOOD
Whether before the wet season, or with an impending storm heading your way, there are a number of simple steps you can take to prepare for floods. We recommend that all ASEAN citizens – particularly those living in flood-prone regions – undertake the following actions on a yearly basis.
1. KNOW FLOOD POINTS AND SAFETY POINTS
Both within your home and the surrounding community, learn your high spots and how to get there quickly. Your safety of course depends on the height of the floodwaters on any given occasion, but the higher you can be the more likely you will remain safe.
2. LEARN YOUR LOCAL WARNING SYSTEMS
Almost all local governments will have warning systems, especially those in areas known to flood, so learn what they are, what to do, and do as you are told should the systems turn on.
3. MONITOR CONDITIONS
Whether through the AHA Centre, your National Disaster Management Organisation, or your local news and weather broadcaster, always remain up-to-date with the latest weather conditions and flood warnings.
4. PREPARE A GRAB-BAG
Important for any disaster preparedness situation, a Grab-Bag should be prepared should you have to leave in haste due to rising waters. Amongst other things, it should contain water, nutritional food/snacks, spare warm clothes, a torch, a communication device, and important medication.
DURING A FLOOD
Whether a flood begins slowly or arrives as an unexpected flash-flood, there are numerous things you can do to avoid being caught in the middle of fast-moving waters.
1. LISTEN TO EMERGENCY BROADCASTS
Whether through your local television or radio station, or any other means identified by your local authorities, listen for updates on a situation, and follow orders to evacuate should the need arise.
2. TURN OFF ELECTRICITY AND GAS
These flammable and dangerous elements can cause destruction or death when floodwaters hit, so turning them off at the source is necessary to minimise the chance of an explosion, fire or electrocution.
If conditions continue to worsen it is time to leave, whether ordered by authorities or not. If you are prepared you know where to go for higher ground, take your Grab Bag and head there until waters recede.
4. DON’T DRIVE OR WALK THROUGH FLOODWATERS
Floodwaters are often extremely powerful with invisible undercurrents, making it easy for people and vehicles to be washed away. Avoid crossing them at all costs, and if you are cut off then find the highest point and call for help.
AFTER A FLOOD
Never return to your home until a flood situation has completely subsided, and follow the directions of local authorities. When arriving home, go slowly and look around your property first without going straight inside your home. Check for damage to the structure of your house, and also to cables or pipes for electricity and gas. Once all is safe check again from the inside, and carefully begin to clean your home. Clean and dry everything properly, as such conditions are breeding grounds for waterborne disease.
Written by : Shintya Kurniawan, William Shea
Tsunami is one of the natural disasters that fall under the monitoring systems of the AHA Centre. The word is derived from Japanese tsu (harbour) and nami (wave). After previous editions delved into earthquake and volcano geophysical disasters, this month we focus towards tsunamis, which may be triggered by various geophysical phenomena, and can have devastating results for the region and its communities. We further explore the cause of these terrifying oceanic occurrences, and learn what to do when faced with the potential onset of such giant, destructive waves.
A tsunami is an ocean wave that is caused by water displacement, most often triggered by a geophysical event (earthquake, volcanic landslide etc.) taking place near or under the ocean. This water displacement results in the formation of large waves that then move quickly (up to 800 km per hours – the speed of an aeroplane) towards the coastline. Such waves can vary in size and strength – small enough to only register on specific monitoring instruments, or large and destructive such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – depending on a range of influencing factors. Tsunami events will normally consist of many waves with strong currents that surge inland from the coastline, picking up and destroying anything that stands in their way. Recent examples of their destructive force in ASEAN include the 1976 Mindanao Tsunami, the 1992 Flores Tsunami, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2006 Pangandaran Tsunami, the 2010 Mentawai Tsunami, the 2018 Central Sulawesi Tsunami, and the 2018 Sunda Strait Tsunami. ASEAN-ERAT responded to the 2010 Mentawai and 2018 Central Sulawesi tsunamis.
PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE
Tsunami monitoring and early-warning technology continues to improve and advance across the ASEAN region and the world, in-line with continuing technological advances overall. The AHA Centre, national disaster management organisations, national meteorological agencies, and a range of partners continue to develop, test and implement technology and procedures aimed to support communities and minimise loss as a result of tsunami events. Currently, ASEAN Member States are beneficiaries and active partners of both the Pacific Tsunami Warning System and Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System.
However, such events remain unpredictable, and can still evade even the most modern technology. Therefore, the importance of community (particularly coastal-based) understanding and preparedness remains key to surviving tsunami events. The following simple steps, if implemented by all communities, could have a significant impact on ensuring safety during a tsunami event:
1. KNOW YOUR SURROUNDINGS
2. ENGAGE WITH WARNING SYSTEMS
3. INITIATE OR PARTICIPATE IN TSUNAMI EVACUATION DRILLS
4. WHEN IT IS SAFE, EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY
TSUNAMI TRIGGERED EVENTS
The most common cause of tsunamis are earthquakes (usually underwater), with the shifting of tectonic plates under the sea causing the displacement of water that results in the giant waves. While such undersea earthquakes are taking place daily across the world, recent tsunamis have most often been caused by significantly large earthquakes that registered at relatively shallow depth and took place quite close to landmass. Certain types of earthquake can also contribute to tsunami occurrences, with different fault line movements (for example strike-slip or dip-slip) effecting the displacement of water within the localised ocean area. While often such earthquakes may be felt by communities before a tsunami arrives, at other times they are not, depending upon the location, size and depth of the preceding earthquake.
VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS AND LANDSLIDES
Although very rare, there have been cases of tsunami triggered by volcanic eruptions and landslides (either due to above or undersea displacement). In the ASEAN context, major historic magmatic eruptions of Mount Krakatau (Indonesia, 1883) and Mount Taal (the Philippines, 1965) triggered tsunamis that caused significant casualties. This was the scenario that occurred again on the 22nd of December 2018, which caught nearby populations completely off-guard. Mount Anak Krakatau’s eruption triggered a landslide of around 64 hectares, with the displaced water causing numerous tsunami waves that struck coastlines on both Java and Sumatra – the two islands that lie on either side of the Sunda Strait. Such events are much more difficult to monitor, and may go undetected, or barely register on monitoring technology – meaning the ensuing tsunami can catch many close-by communities unaware.
OTHER POTENTIAL CAUSES
METEOROLOGICAL-TSUNAMI caused by atmospheric disturbances.
METEOR ATTACK-TSUNAMI caused by the fall of large meteorites or asteroids in the oceans.
MAN-MADE EVENTS such as nuclear explosions.
Written by : Mizan Bisri, Will Shea
DECONSTRUCTING MYTHS ABOUT
There were many myths about natural disasters before science reached its current point, and also the possibility of misinterpreting science, and other elements surrounding a hazard or disaster. While some myths may be interesting and a great topic for dinner conversations, it is better for science to guide our actions when preparing for or experiencing a natural disaster. The following are a range of myths we often hear – particularly during times of heightened disaster activity – that have been comprehensively ‘busted’ by increases in human understanding and the science of natural disasters.
OPENING YOUR WINDOWS DURING A TYPHOON WILL STOP YOUR BUILDING FROM EXPLODING.
It was once widely believed that opening top windows in a home would release pressure during a typhoon, to ensure that a building would be safe from explosion due to high pressure build-up. However, with improvements to science and understanding of physics and engineering, it has been categorically found that this act does not support your home during a typhoon – in fact it adds to the likelihood of your roof being blown off due to wind entering your home and pushing upwards. This, alongside constant battering from the wind outside, would lift the roofs of houses making it look like they had exploded due to pressure from the inside. This myth is further from the truth due to the fact that houses are not airtight in their general state, have no vacuum, and therefore cannot form a pressure differential. In the face of a typhoon, it remains best to secure all windows and doors, turn off appliances and gas lines, and seek shelter a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level of your home if you have not been able to evacuate the area.
DOGS AND OTHER ANIMALS CAN “SENSE” WHEN AN EARTHQUAKE IS GOING TO STRIKE.
For centuries there have been stories and accounts of strange animal reactions in the lead-up to an earthquake, and while these are intriguing, there are no particular scientific links between an animal’s ‘sixth sense’ and an impending earthquake. There is room for thought on animals sending pre-shocks that preceded a larger quake, however this again is merely a concept for an interesting discussion or storytelling session. In reality, what animals sense, if they feel anything at all, remains a mystery. Earthquakes are a sudden phenomenon, and seismologists have no way of knowing exactly when or where the next one will strike. While there have been various research projects undertaken to link animal sensory behaviour with earthquakes, many outcomes are based on varying hypothesis, and also based on retrospection and memory after an earthquake event (due to the above fact that earthquakes are unpredictable). Overall, there is no strong evidence supporting this – and while this might be an interesting theory, it is still best to follow the warnings and guidance of your local disaster management authority and be prepared for an earthquake event at all times.
LOTS OF SMALLER EARTHQUAKES KEEP BIGGER ONES FROM HAPPENING.
It may feel that the onset of small earthquakes forms some sort of ‘tension release’, that ultimately decrease the size and scale of a larger earthquake – however this is untrue. Small quakes do in fact relieve stress on a fault line, but in reality it is way too little stress to decrease the likelihood of a larger quake. Earthquake monitoring shows that around a single 6M earthquake there can be hundreds, even thousands of smaller earthquake events (before and after a large event), however none of these serve to decrease the magnitude of the largest quake. In reality, these smaller quakes only serve to evidence that the fault line is in the midst of activity, and should make us consider our preparedness and readiness for the onset of a larger quake.
HOLDING ONTO A SOLID OBJECT WILL HELP YOU SURVIVE A TSUNAMI.
While there are some amazing stories of survival, the reality is that most people do not survive being swept away by a tsunami. The power, amount and height of the water surge is much too strong for most ‘immoveable’ objects, let alone for anyone unfortunate enough to be hanging onto them. The best way to avoid being caught by a tsunami is to be aware of your location, including tsunami evacuation routes, should a strong coastal earthquake occur. If this happens, follow the guidance of local authorities and evacuate if requested, and should you find yourself with limited time before the tsunami strikes, quickly find shelter on higher ground nearby.
YOU CAN OUTRUN A TORNADO IN A VEHICLE.
While some vehicles may have higher speeds than the average 60-120km/h winds created by tornadoes, you would have to be a very lucky person (or racing car driver) to outrun one in your vehicle. Tornadoes turn and flip vehicles with ease, ensuring that you and any passengers would be in the greatest of danger. Alongside the varying windspeeds, the idea also must factor-in changes in wind direction, as well as the array of obstacles and flying debris that would cross your path. Therefore, if you have not had the chance to evacuate from the path of a tornado, it is best to avoid windows and take shelter in a basement or a window-less middle room on the lowest level of a building.
IF ONE MOUNTAIN IS INCREASINGLY ACTIVE OR ERUPTS, IT WILL TRIGGER ERUPTIONS IN OTHER NEARBY VOLCANOES.
While many volcanoes may be situated along a single fault line that is experiencing increased activity, there is no link between a mountain’s eruption and the state of others nearby. In reality, each volcano has a ‘life of its own’, with its own characteristics, activity, pressure and release points, and therefore remain may erupt at any time in accordance with their own situations. The best way to face potential eruption is to develop your own preparedness plan under guidance of local authorities, who will also provide the most up-to-date information regarding the activity of your closest volcanoes.
A VOLCANO IS ‘DUE’ FOR A LARGE ERUPTION.
Often people feel as if the longer a mountain lies dormant, the likelihood of a larger eruption increases. This is perhaps based on the belief that pressure and magma is continuously growing within a mountain crater to the point of eruption, therefore the longer the wait, the larger the event. In reality, volcanoes have no eruption pattern or cycle – as stated previously, each mountain has a life of its own. Some volcanoes can lay dormant for centuries with only a small eruption as a result, whereas others may be continuously active with varying sizes of eruptions. Each mountain is defined by the variety of activities and elements within its design and its source of magma, completely under the guidance of the unique and unpredictable events happening deep below the earth’s surface.
LARGE AND HEAVY VEHICLES, SUCH AS SUVS AND PICKUPS, ARE SAFE TO DRIVE THROUGH FLOOD WATERS.
While simple physics may have us believe that the heavier the vehicle, the more likely one can drive through floodwaters, in reality this is not true – driving through floodwaters should be avoided at all costs. Strong floodwaters with underlying currents have been known to wash away objects much heavier than a truck, not to mention that vehicles are not secured or anchored to the road. While we may feel that the movement of our vehicle will allow us to pass through the water, it is easy for floodwaters to rise extremely quickly and drown an engine, rendering one stranded in the middle of fast-moving waters with no ability to find safety. If caught in rising floodwaters it remains the best option to seek higher ground, contact authorities, and wait for rescue or for the floodwaters to recede.
Written by : William Shea
SOUTHEAST ASIA’S LARGEST
It is well-known that ASEAN’s position on the renowned ‘Ring of Fire’, alongside other unique geographical elements, ensure it is one of the most vulnerable and heavily-affected natural disaster regions in the world. The following infographic takes a look back through some of ASEAN’s largest and most destructive natural disasters.
Mt. Tambora eruption, West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.
Severe impact on global temperatures post-eruption, causing a drop by as much as 3°C.
Mt. Krakatoa eruption, located between the islands of Sumatera and Java, Indonesia.
Caused the deaths of over 36,000 people (approximately).
7.9M Earthquake in Moro Gulf, the Philippines.
Displaced around 40,000 families and caused more than 1,400 deaths.
Mt. Pinatubo eruption, the Philippines.
Approximately 200,000 people displaced.
Flooding in Cambodia.
Affected 20 out of 24 provinces with a total of 31,314 families displaced.
9M Earthquake and Tsunami, Indian Ocean.
Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and other countries outside the ASEAN region were affected. Over 260,000 deaths and almost 2 million people displaced.
8.6M Earthquake, Nias island, Indonesia.
Caused 1,300 deaths.
6.4M Earthquake, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
5,700 dead and tens of thousands injured.
Southern Leyte mudslide, the Philippines.
Caused 1,126 deaths.
Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar.
Over 140,000 deaths and approximately 2.4 million people affected.
7.6M Earthquake in Padang, Indonesia.
Caused 1,115 deaths.
Tropical Storms Haima and Nok Ten, Lao PDR.
The first storm led to flooding in 12 out of 17 provinces, affecting 429,954 people nationwide.
South-east Asian Floods in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam.
Almost 3,000 deaths, with millions of people affected by a range of flood events throughout the northern and southern regions of ASEAN.
Cyclone Bopha/Pablo, the Philippines.
Caused 1,900 deaths.
M6.7 Earthquake in Negros Occidental, the Philippines.
Over 6000 houses damaged.
Typhoon Haiyan/Super Typhoon Yolanda, the Philippines.
Led to approximately 6,300 casualties and over 4 million people displaced. The same typhoon also forcibly displaced about 900,000 people in Viet Nam.
Flash floods, Lao PDR.
Affected over 350,000 people nationwide.
Super Typhoon Mangkhut, the Philippines.
Affected over 2.6 million people nationwide.
7.5M Earthquake and Tsunami in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Over 2,000 dead with over 1,200 still missing.
Information compiled from various sources including: ADINet, CFE-DMHA, PHIVOLCS, UNOCHA.
Written by : Valerie Bayhon, Shintya Kurniawan, William Shea