The Weekend Leader - Indonesia ignored warning about soil instability before quake

Indonesia ignored warning about soil instability before quake



 Geologists had warned Indonesian authorities regarding soil instability in the region on Sulawesi Island that was affected by an earthquake and a tsunami in September, experts said on Saturday.

Indonesian Association of Geologists (IAGI) head Sukmandaru Prihatmoko said that an agency of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in 2012 drew a map showing the areas vulnerable to soil liquefaction in Palu, the worst-affected in the quake.

"They released an official report and they claimed they already reported to the local government there. Supposedly the local government should know about it but nobody cared about that," Sukmandaru told Efe news.

Soil liquefaction is a phenomenon where soil substantially loses its strength and rigidity as a result of applied stress, such as in the case of an earthquake, causing it to behave like liquid, and can sweep away entire buildings or bury them in mud.

Last year, seismologists Ian Watkinson and Robert Hall of Royal Holloway, University of London, in an article identified the Palu-Koro fault as the most dangerous one in Sulawesi and warned of risk of tsunami and liquefaction in Palu.

The article had also warned about the possibility of liquefaction in the basin on which the city lies and its vulnerability to a tsunami on account of the location of Palu bay.

"Nobody really expected it (the extent of liquefaction) to be as bad as it was," Hall said.

In the Petobo and Balaroa neighbourhood, both in Palu, rescue teams were able to recover the bodies of a few hundred residents of the nearly 5,000 people that got buried, according to official estimates.

The disaster at Sulawesi left 2,103 people dead and 4,612 severely injured, according to latest official toll.

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