Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics: Rising Potential for disaster

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The Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (Badan Meteorologi, Klimatologi, dan Geofisika – “BMKG”) asks that citizens increase their awareness and be alert for multiple climate and weather-related threats, including earthquakes and tsunamis, which might increase throughout January-March 2021. (Photo: BNPB)

IO – Two weeks into the start of 2021, the National Board for Disaster Management (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana – “BNPB”) recorded 136 natural disasters in Indonesia: 95 floods, 25 landslides, 12 typhoons, 2 earthquakes, and 2 tidal wave incidents. Consequently, 405,584 people lost their homes and had to evacuate, 80 died, and 858 were injured. These disasters do not include the Mount Semeru hot volcanic cloud and the latest major natural disasters, i.e., the earthquake in Majene, Sulawesi, and the flood in South Kalimantan. BNPB stated that the landslide that occurred in Cihanjuang Village, District of Cimanggung, Regency of Sumedang, West Java was caused by recent high rainfall intensity in the region, which caused the soil to become unstable. National Search and Rescue Agency (Badan Search and Rescue Nasional – “Basarnas”) data shows that at least 40 people died in the incident, while 1,020 citizens had to evacuate to refuge posts and the homes of their relatives. 

A prolonged period of intense rainfall caused the 2-3 m flood in South Kalimantan. However, Greenpeace Indonesia states that land deforestation for palm coconut cultivation and mining is the primary cause of the flood. The flooded areas include the Regency of Banjar, the Regency of Tanah Laut, the Regency of Hulu Sungai Tengah, and the Regency of Tabalong. Basarnas data shows that 3 people died and nearly 44,000 others had to evacuate as a result of the flooding. 

President Joko Widodo directly visited the site of the flood in South Kalimantan, Pekauman Ulu Village, Regency of Banjar, on Monday (18/01/2021) afternoon. During the inspection, Jokowi instructed his staff to immediately repair the damaged infrastructure and to help refugees properly. “I just want to confirm several things in the field. First, infrastructural damage. It did occur, in that several bridges collapsed. Second, evacuation efforts. I notice that everything is handled properly in the field. Finally, the third: evacuee logistics. This is crucial, as nearly 20,000 citizens are now in refuges,” he said. 

It didn’t end there. The next disaster, an earthquake with a 6.2 magnitude in Majene, West Sulawesi, occurred early morning on Friday (15/01/2021). At least 84 people died and more than 1,000 people were injured in the incident; more than 30,000 were evacuated. Vital infrastructure ruined in the quake included the office of the Governor of West Sulawesi in Mamuju. Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (Badan Meteorologi, Klimatologi, dan Geofisika – “BMKG”) Coordinator for Earthquakes Daryono request that all citizens, especially those in areas vulnerable to this disaster, be constantly alert for threats of further earth tremors. 

BNPB has provided IDR 4 billion in initial aid for necessary mitigation efforts at the West Sulawesi earthquake site. IDR 2 billion of the aid was given to the Provincial Government of West Sulawesi, and IDR 1 billion each for the Regency Governments of Mamuju and Majene. BNPB has also distributed 8 sets of isolation tents, 10 sets of refuge tents, 2,004 packages of nutrient supplements, 2.004 packages of ready-to-eat foods, 1,002 side dish packages, 700 blankets, 5 Light Tower units, 200 folding bed units, 500 baby need packages, 500,000 pcs cloth masks, 700 packs of sago noodles, and 30 5 KVA portable generator sets. 

The very next day, Mount Semeru in East Java spewed hot clouds with lava debris flowing forth, 4 whole kilometers, spitting out burning hot lava to a distance of 500-1,000 meters away from Jonggring Seleko Crater towards the Besuk Kobokan area, according to Vulcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi – “PVMBG”) data. Both local citizens and people who happened to be visiting the area were requested not to get any closer than a 1 km radius from the Crater and 4 km of the South to Southeast directions of the Crater’s opening. 

On the very same day, a flood and landslides occurred in Manado City, North Sulawesi Province, due to prolonged high-intensity rainfall and unstable soil structure. BNPB recorded that at least 9 Districts were affected by the flood, at least 6 people died, and 12 housing units suffer medium to heavy damage. 

On Sunday (17/01/2021, a 4-meter- high tidal wave hit the Manado Bay and caused flash floods in the area. BMKG stated that the tidal waves resulted from extreme weather: over the past few days, North Sulawesi suffered intense rains, typhoons, and high waves in several of its aquatic areas. Citizens who live in coastal areas are warned to be constantly alert for tidal wave threats. 

Disaster Alert 

The BMKG asks that citizens increase their awareness and be alert for multiple climate and weather related threats, including earthquakes and tsunamis, which could persist throughout January-March 2021. “The potential for multiple risks will remain until March this year. However, the peak of hydrometeorological threats will occur throughout January-February. At the same time, the potential for earthquakes also increases. Please stay alert,” said BMKG Chairwoman Dwikorita Karnawati in an online press conference held in Jakarta on Friday (16/01/2021). 

BMKG has been issuing information on potential disasters and rainy season forecasts for this year since October 2020, as well as potential earthquakes with significant power in several regions. Other than the increased earthquake potential, we are currently entering the peak of the rainy season. Therefore, the Head of BMKG Climate Change Information Division, Dodo Gunawan, warns of possible hydrometeorological disasters in the peak of the rainy season in January-February this year – and also reminds everyone to be alert and prepared for disasters. 

BMKG data shows that areas that must be alert for potential medium- impact floods in the final ten days of January 2021include Banten, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, Bali, West Nusa Tenggara, East Nusa Tenggara, Central Sulawesi, South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, Maluku, and Papua. “Everybody, especially those living in these areas, must be alert for imminent potential flood disaster during this period,” said the Head of the Applied Climate Service Center Ardhasena Sopaheluwakan.  

BMKG estimates potential 2.5- 4.0 meter-high tidal waves (rough seas) could rise up on 15-24 January 2021 in the Western waters of Lampung, the western and southern parts of Sunda Straits, the southern waters of Java Island, the western part of the Indian Ocean (Lampung to the southern waters of the West Nusa Tenggara), Natuna Sea, the waters of Anambas Islands, the eastern waters of Bintan Islands and Lingga Islands, the eastern part of the Java Sea, the southern part of Makassar Straits, Sulawesi Sea, the waters of Sangihe Islands and Talaud Islands, and the northern part of the Pacific Ocean (from Halmahera to Papua) is quite high. It cannot be repeated often enough: Please remain alert. (dan)