ONE ASEAN ONE RESPONSE FOR
“The tsunami caught everyone in a state of panic. I was near the beach, and everything happened so fast” recalls Misfar, a resident of Palu after a series of disaster events rocked Central Sulawesi on Friday evening the 28th of September, 2018. “The call to prayer began only shortly after the earthquake stopped – and wasn’t yet finished when the tsunami hit the beach”, Misfar explains as he recalls the rapid sequence of multiple disasters that began with a 7.7M earthquake, which was followed by a tsunami and a liquefaction phenomenon. Misfar and his family are grateful to have survived the triple disasters, but remain worried as they lost their houses and feel uncertain about their future.
Misfar is only one of over 68 thousand families whose houses were damaged or ruined by the disasters of the 28th of September. By end of the emergency phase on October 26th, the events caused the deaths of over 2000 people, with over 1,300 still missing, and over 200,000 residents of the Central Sulawesi province displaced. Adding to this, the earthquake also forcibly closed the Mutiara Al-Jufri Airport in Palu, slowing down logistical efforts and the flow of aid to Central Sulawesi’s affected districts (Palu City, Donggala, Sigi, and Parigi Moutong). The earthquake struck within less than two months after a series of seismic events shook the island of Lombok in Eastern Indonesia. The National Disaster Management Authority of Indonesia (BNPB) managed to extend support for both the recovery on Lombok Island, as well as the emergency response in Central Sulawesi.
The Government of Indonesia also opened its doors to welcome offers of international assistance, under specifications identified early during the initial stage of the response. As a result, the international community provided support in a range of forms, including air cargo capacity to transport relief items, water filtration units, family tents, generator sets, medical equipment, and environmental-management support for the prevention of mosquito-borne disease outbreak. At a later stage, the Government of Indonesia also accepted cash donations from governmental and humanitarian partners, channelled through BNPB and the Indonesian Red Cross. Throughout the emergency period, the BNPB worked alongside multiple governmental agencies, who came together on a national response task force. Engaging agencies included the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises, the National Search and Rescue Agency, the National Police Force, and the Ministry of Education. The national rapid response was reinforced by local NGOs, as well as volunteers from across the nation, who helped restore stability in the affected sites. In less than one week, the national taskforce managed to gradually restore electricity, telecommunication access, and access to gasoline supplies. Debris cleaning and the provision of health services were also quickly reinforced through the deployment of field hospitals and military vessels from neighbouring provinces and national resources.
“I am impressed by the Government of Indonesia’s work to quickly restore telecommunication and electricity infrastructure. Once the electricity was on, everything else followed, and coordination became easier”, said Kenneth Mak, one of the members of ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ERAT) from the Singapore Civil Defence Force who was deployed to Palu in the early days following the disasters.
The AHA Centre responded quickly to the disasters by providing full support as required to the BNPB. In addition to providing relief items, including generators, family tents, and mobile storage units, the AHA Centre also mobilised three groups of ASEAN-ERAT members, with a total deployment of 29 personnel from 5 ASEAN Member States. The Centre also supported BNPB with the facilitation, coordination and tracking of incoming international assistance in Jakarta, Balikpapan, and Palu.
During the second week of the emergency response, the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, H.E. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, paid courtesy visit to BNPB and the AHA Centre. During this visit, the Chief of BNPB, H.E. Willem Rampangilei mentioned, “We are grateful for the tremendous support of the AHA Centre, who has been very helpful during the responses in Lombok and also Palu”.
In Palu, the AHA Centre and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) had the opportunity to implement ASEAN-UN interoperability of mechanism for the first time. On immediate notification, ASEAN-ERAT was assigned by BNPB to set-up and manage the on-site Joint Operations and Coordination Centre for International Assistance (JOCCIA), which is home to facilitate the initial joint needs assessments involving both national and multinational agencies. At a later stage, the ASEAN-ERAT and JOCCIA also hosted members of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) Team. The widespread impact and scale of the disaster attracted the attention of the United Nations Secretary-General, H.E. António Guterres, who visited ground-zero on the 12th of October. Prior to the visit, he addressed ASEAN Leaders in Denpasar, reiterating the full commitment of the United Nations to support government-led rescue and relief efforts. “I also commend the work of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance which has been instrumental in the response, even facilitating and accommodating some of our embedded UN staff.”
The collaboration for the response in Central Sulawesi was comprehensively summarised by ASEAN-ERAT member from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, Mr. Nazim Bin Kudin, when he stated that “everyone came together to help one another, and the best type of leadership is by setting examples, instead of simply telling one another what to do”. He continued by saying that “leading by example not only indicates that you are in-charge, but also the fact that you are involved in getting the work done. So, once you roll-up your sleeves, everyone will follow. That is what I witnessed from the excellent partnership here, especially with the logistics management team.”
Written by: Shintya Kurniawan | Photo : AHA Centre