A powerful earthquake, registering at 8.7 on the Richter Scale, hit Indonesia around 4pm local time (4am CST). It was located off the west coast of Simeulue Island in Aceh Province (150 km off Western coast of Aceh and about 140 km Northwest of Nias Island) and was felt as far away as India. The earthquake was followed by three powerful aftershocks and a tsunami warning issued immediately after the initial quake.
Initial worries were heightened since this same area was struck by a major earthquake and tsunami in December 2004, which led to over 170,000 deaths and major damage to the coastal regions. Thankfully, the earthquake did not trigger a major tsunami and according to Sherry Panggabean with the Center for Disaster Risk Management and Community Development Studies, which is funded by the ELCA, the warning was called off at 8pm local time.
Sherry also reported that their staff in other regions of Indonesia had reported back that there were no major injuries or structural damage. The ELCA Global Mission Director for Asia – Pacific Continental Desk Franklin Ishida has been in contact with our one missionary in the region, Megan Ross, and has shared that she is unaffected.
With the threat of a major disaster passed, this event has given us time to pause and marvel at disaster preparedness work in action. Working with other Lutheran World Federation partners the ELCA supports the Center for Disaster Risk Management and Community Development Studies (CDRM&CDS) which has as part of its mission “to facilitate community disaster management and risk preparedness”. This involves activities like people immediate evacuating to the streets following an earthquake, getting to higher ground when hearing of the warning of a possible tsunami and the offices of CDRM&CDS checking in with each other to be communication centers for their communities.
And this is exactly what happened. The community knew what to do and did it. Through disaster risk reduction and preparedness, fears were mitigated by a solid plan of action, confusion was not given sway because of proper communication channels and at the end of the day lives that may have been in danger were kept safe. A huge prayer of thanksgiving to the staff of CDRM&CDS for their work and ministry.