Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund
Lessons from the Mentawai Earthquake

Preparedness Saves Lives

On Wednesday, March 2nd 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck 682 km south-west of the remote Mentawai Islands in West Sumatra. The earthquake occurred just before 8 pm in the evening and caused strong shaking in the Mentawai Islands, Padang, Bengkulu and other areas along the west coast of Sumatra.

Helfer tragen einen Verletzten auf einer Trage zum Evakuierungsplatz

The evecuation drills that are regularly held in the disaster prone areas help to save lives when it comes to an earthquake.

Photo: ASB Indonesien

Though it was cancelled a few hours after, the earthquake also triggered a tsunami warning from the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG). Zero casualties and no major damage has been reported.

Sources from ASB's project areas in the Mentawai reported that villages were OK and community members were well. Community members in three villages; Simalegi, Taileleu and Sagulubbeg, immediately evacuated to shelters that were built under ASB's Inclusive Resilient Village Programme with support from the German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The programme also provided radio communications, emergency evacuation and search and rescue equipment, established teams and provided extensive trainings to community members.

The shelters are located on hills behind coastal villages to avoid tsunami risk. Community members reported implementing the evacuation scenario that they had practised under the ASB programme. This included assisting the evacuation of highly at-risk community members, such as people with disability, older persons, children and pregnant women. Community teams also ensured emergency supplies and equipment were taken to support daily needs during the evacuation. Due to ongoing aftershocks, community members stayed at the shelters for two days.

During the evacuation, disaster management teams established by ASB and communities at sub-village levels played a key role in coordination. The teams reported to have successfully kept the community from panicking and ensured people remained calm. Teams were quick to put into action their emergency communication skills from their previous trainings.  Communication in the Mentawai is often very difficult and as per their training the teams used radios and available communication channels to provide and get trusted information from government authorities.

As reported by some local and national news, the communities in the Mentawai have shown their preparedness in dealing with a potential disaster. Mr Elyas Sirinyarag, a member of Disaster Risk Reduction Forum in Simalegi village, told ASB that the earthquake and successful tsunami evacuation had opened his eyes that preparedness is essential for everyone who lives in the Mentawai or any other places prone to disaster.