Mentawai's Tsunami and Mount Merapi's eruption


29 October 2010



In the late evening of October 25, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Mentawai islands, off the western coast of Sumatra, triggering a tsunami alert. Within minutes, waves of up to 4 meters high struck most of the Mentawai islands, entering 400 to 600 meters inland, and a number of 5.0-magnitude aftershocks were registered in the hours immediately after the first quake.

The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) stated the big earthquake followed by a tsunami in Mentawai islands had affected a large number of villages and has caused 408 confirmed casualties so far, 303 missing and 270 severely injured (as of 29 October 2010).

The tsunami also injured at least 267 people and forced the evacuation of 12,865 others. The West Sumatra Provincial Disaster Mitigation Board said on Thursday the tsunami also destroyed four elementary school buildings, one junior high school building, four churches, 426 houses, and 10 bridges, while more than 200 houses had minor damage.

The affected population was initially estimated at 33,817 persons. However many islands have become inaccessible and the number of potentially affected people could be over 65,000.

West Sumatra`s Governor Irwan Prayitno admitted that people in Mentawai island never received the tsunami warning from the related authorities shortly after the 7.2-magnitude quake struck the area last Monday (Oct 25) at 21.42.

The Mentawai Islands are a chain of about seventy islands and islets off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. Siberut (4,030 km²) is the largest of the islands. The other major islands are Sipura, North Pagai (Pagai Utara) and South Pagai (Pagai Selatan). The islands lie approximately 150 km off the Sumatran coast, across the Mentawai Strait. The population of Mentawai islands is 76.421 people.


Mount Merapi in Central Java Province, Indonesia, which erupted on Tuesday, 26 October 2010, has killed 34 people and seriously injured 10 others.

A total of 17,776 people in Sleman district, Yogyakarta, and 13,757 people in Magelang district, Central Java, have so far evacuated to safer places following the eruption.


President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has visited Mentawai Islands on Thursday, 28 October 2008 flied directly from Vietnam. The President has asked the West Sumatra governor and Mentawai district head to make a good coordination of the relocation of the tsunami victims.

"The West Sumatra governor and Mentawai district head should make a good coordination to make the emergency response and tsunami victims evacuation and relocation a success," President Yudhoyono said.

The president has also provided up to 18 tons of various kinds of basic necessaries to victims of the tsunami in Mentawai, his spokesman, Julian Aldrin Pasha, said. "It has been confirmed that all of the aid had reached the victims," he said in Padang on Thursday. He said four tons of the aid were sent by land and sea while the other 14 tons by air. President Yudhoyono has asked all the relevant institutions to ensure that the aid reached those really in need. He also called for transparency in relief aid distribution.


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II sent a letter of condolence to President Yudhoyono following the natural disasters that struck Indonesia on 29 October 2010. In her letter, Her Majesty the Queen said: "I was saddened to hear of the loss of life caused by the tsunami on 26 October, the eruption of Mount Merapi volcano and floods and landslides across Indonesia this month. My thoughts and sincere condolences are with you and the people of Indonesia.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague has also sent a letter of condolence to Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa. UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell issued a statement saying: ”Our sympathies go out to those affected by these disasters. We are in close contact with the Government of Indonesia and stand ready to help if necessary."


The US government has pledged US$2 million in aid to assist the victims of a tsunami in Mentawai islands and Mount Merapi`s eruption in Central Java.

The European Commission provides 1.5 million euro to assist the survivors of the tsunami in Mentawai islands, West Sumatra, and Mt Merapi in Yogyakarta. The funds will be channeled through the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO),

Australia will provide up to $1 million of emergency assistance to help Indonesia in the wake of two devastating disasters.

The UK government has indicated its readiness to lend its assistance by the statement of the UK's Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell who said: "Our sympathies go out to those affected by these disasters. We are in close contact with the Government of Indonesia and stand ready to help if necessary."


In both catastrophes, the victims are in urgent need of medical supplies, water and food supplies, relief items, emergency shelter and psychological support.

Ships are vitally important to distribute logistics and carry out evacuation of victims in Mentawai Islands.

So far, four warships and one hospital warship have also been deployed to conduct humanitarian operations. The four warships are KRI Imam Bonjol, KRI Gilimanuk, KRI Cirebon and KRI Teluk Manado. For mobile hospital at sea, the naval hospital ship KRI Dr Soeharso has carred logistics such as food, beverages and medical supplies. The ship has also carried navy personnel and 22 doctors and nurses experienced in various disciplines.

In order to help injured victims, mobile hospital is also important. Therefore, mobile hospitals will be set up in quake hit areas to serve wounded victims.


The main challenge posing the national and international aid agencies are reaching the Mentawai islands to provide urgent assistance and to make an assessment of the humanitarian needs.

Bad weather has hampered efforts to ferry aid such as tents, medicine, food and water to the islands by boat from the nearest port of Padang, which is more than half a day away even in the best conditions.

Some aid workers said they had been stuck in Padang for days, waiting for a ride to the Mentawais.

Shortages of aviation fuel as well as a lack of roads and phone communications on the effected islands were also limiting aid distribution.