One Year After Tsunami Disaster

by:Harry Wahyudhy Utama
26th December 2004-26th December 2005

1. Introduction
Aceh is a ‘special territory’ in Indonesia located at the Northern tip of the island of Sumatra. It is strategically located on the Malaccan Strait, an important trade route and portal to Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean to the South. The Capital of the territory is Banda Aceh. Aceh has a population of approximately 4 million, representing two percent of the total Indonesian population. There are various ethnic groups residing in Aceh, with the major ethnic group being the Acehnese. The other ethnic groups include the Gayo, Alas, Tamiang; Aneuk Jamee, Kluet and Simeulue. There is also a small population of Arab and European descent.
Figure I. Changed in Aceh’s shoreline and coastal area
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Source: http://www.QuickBird.com. 2005
On December 26, 2004, 100 years of accumulated stress was released in the one of the biggest earthquake in Indian Ocean. It unleashed a devastating tsunami that traveled thousands of kilometers across the Indian Ocean, taking the lives of more than 150.000 people in Aceh alone and destroying homes, infrastructure and natural habitats. Because of their destructiveness, tsunamis have important impacts on the human, social and economic sectors of societies.

2. Definition
Tsunami (pronounced soo-NAH-mee) is a Japanese word. Tsunamis are fairly common in Japan and many thousands of Japanese have been killed by them in recent centuries. A tsunami is a series of great sea waves. There is sufficient force and there is violent movement of the earth causing substantial and sudden displacement of a massive amount of water. A tsunami is not a single wave but a series of waves, also known as a wave train. The first wave in a tsunami is not necessarily the most destructive. Tsunamis are not tidal waves. Tsunami waves can be very long (as much as 60 miles, or 100 kilometers) and be as far as one hour apart. They are able to cross entire oceans without great loss of energy. The Indian Ocean tsunami traveled as much as 3,000 miles (nearly 5,000 kilometers) to Africa.

3. Causes
A tsunami is a series of great sea waves caused by an underwater earthquake, landslide, or volcanic eruption. More rarely, a tsunami can be generated by a giant meteor impact with the ocean. Aceh Tsunamis are generated primarily by tectonic dislocations under the sea which are caused by shallow focus earthquakes. An earthquake which is too small to create a tsunami by itself may trigger an undersea landslide quite capable of generating a tsunami. Tsunamis can be generated when the sea floor abruptly deforms and vertically displaces the overlying water.
Such large vertical movements of the earth’s crust can occur at plate boundaries. Subduction earthquakes are particularly effective in generating tsunamis, and occur where denser oceanic plates slip under continental plates in a process known as subduction. Sub-marine landslides; which are sometimes triggered by large earthquakes; as well as collapses of volcanic edifices, may also disturb the overlying water column as sediment and rocks slide down slope and are redistributed across the sea floor. Similarly, a violent submarine volcanic eruption can uplift the water column and generate a tsunami. Waves are formed as the displaced water mass moves under the influence of gravity to regain its equilibrium and radiates across the ocean like ripples on a pond.

4. Tsunami impact
Although infrequent, tsunamis are among the most terrifying and complex physical phenomena and have been responsible for great loss of life and extensive destruction to property. Historical records show that enormous destruction of coastal communities throughout the world has taken place and that the socio-economic impact. In the Pacific Ocean where the majority of these waves have been generated, the historic record shows tremendous destruction with extensive loss of life and property. In Japan, which has one of the most populated coastal regions in the world and a long history of earthquake activity, tsunamis have destroyed entire coastal populations. There is also a history of severe tsunami destruction in Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands, and South America, although records for these areas are not as extensive. The last major Pacific-wide tsunami occurred in 1960. Many other local and regional destructive tsunamis have occurred with more localized effects.
List of historic tsunamis
· 228,000–310,000 – Indian Ocean earthquake with tsunami, (Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Somalia, Myanmar, and other countries) 2004
· 100,000 – 1755 Lisbon earthquake, tsunami, earthquake and fire, 1755, Portugal and Morocco
· 70,000 – Messina, Italy, earthquake and tsunami, 1908
· 40,000 – South China Sea, 1782, including deaths in Taiwan
· 36,000 – Krakatoa volcano explosion, 1883
· 30,000 – Tokaido-Nankaido, Japan, 1707
· 27,000 – Japan, 1826
· 25,674 – Chile, 1868
· 22,070 – Sanriku, Japan, 1896
· 15,030 – caused by Mount Unzen, Southwest Kyushu, Japan, 1792
· 13,486 – Ryukyu Trench, 1771
· 5,233 – Tokaido-Kashima, Japan, 1703
· 5,000 – Nankaido, Japan, 1605
· 5,000 – Moro Gulf, Philippines, 1976
· 3,000 – Papua New Guinea, 1998
· 3,008 – Sanriku, Japan, 1933
· 2,000 – Great Chilean Earthquake, deaths in Chile, U.S. (Hawaii), Philippines and Japan, 1960
· 2,000 – Bristol Channel floods, 1607, possible tsunami, United Kingdom
· 165 – Aleutian Island earthquake, deaths in Hawaii and Alaska, U.S., 1946

More specifically, the damage caused directly by tsunamis can be summarized into the following:
· deaths and injuries;
· Houses destroyed, partly destroyed, inundated, flooded, or burned;
· Other property damage and loss;
· boats washed away, damaged or destroyed;
· lumber washed away;
· Marine installations destroyed, and;
· Damage to public utilities such as railroads, roads, electric power plants, water supply installations, etc.
Indirect secondary tsunami damage can be:
· Damage by fire of houses, boats, oil tanks, gas stations, and other facilities;
· Environmental pollution caused by drifting materials, oil, or other substances;
· Outbreak of disease of epidemic proportions which could be serious in densely populated areas.
Figure II. Aceh Great Mosque, before and after Tsunami
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Source: http://www.QuickBird.com. 2005
a. Social impact
i) Tsunami stress affects many kids
Few signs of stress that many displaced children of Aceh have – including bed-wetting, nightmares, inability to concentrate, and bouts of extreme misbehavior. Some children had stopped talking and were beginning to experience nightmares and severe insomnia.
Anthony Kyes, who to set up an emergency psychological trauma center and in recovering bodies of victims in Aceh said that, “People are past the tears and the immediate loss, and now reflection sets in and trauma is beginning to surface.” Many individuals may never totally recover and will have concerns and fear that will not be completely resolved. But if people can get treatment early on, the prognosis for improvement is much better. The real concern is for children. So many lost their families and have no support to reach out to for help. They really suffered twice, first the loss of parents and siblings and now coping with surviving the tsunami.

ii) Aceh tsunami orphans left stranded
Despite the millions in aid flowing to Aceh, several hundred orphans have been found in north Aceh, living in shelters made of palm leaves, rotting timber and cement bags, with some children bathing in a stagnant pool. International aid groups have been approached, but most have refused to help build new accommodation for the orphans. 700 orphans are staying in four orphanages and Muslim boarding schools, which are overcrowded, unsanitary and depend on handouts from local residents to feed the children.
“They are sleeping on the ground, with just a blue tarpaulin overhead, there is no water, no sanitation, absolutely nothing,” said Rapley, a project manager with the International Organization for Migration, constructing housing for tsunami victims. It is better if the children live with their extended family, or other community members. An orphanage is not the right place for children to live in. But the first priority is to make sure all kids are well looked after and safe.

iii) Sex trafficking
More than half the orphans are girls, many teenagers, that could become targets for Indonesia’s enormous sex trafficking market. Trafficking experts agree that such children are in danger of exploitation. Five young Acehnese women offered jobs in a factory in Malaysia, were smuggled earlier last month to a sex tourism resort on Karimun Tanjungbalai, a small Indonesian island close to Singapore. The girls were rescued after one of them escaped from their minders, reporting their case to the police. This case suggests traffickers are already scouring Acehnese villagers looking for young people desperate for work.

b. Economical impact
i) Fish Pond
Aceh province was the worst affected of all the Indian Ocean areas hit by the December 26 earthquake and tsunami. The tsunami destroyed the earthen banks of the fishponds and filled the ponds with debris and often-toxic silt. More than half of Aceh’s 44 000 hectares of fishponds were destroyed, according to an FAO survey. About 27 000 people earned a living from the ponds (known by their Indonesian name, tambak). Many of them, swept away with their families, are among the 135 000 people listed as missing or dead in Indonesia since the tsunami struck.
Rebuilding the aquaculture industry – one of Aceh’s most lucrative activities – is not only a massive undertaking, but also a controversial one. Small local producers earning a steady living from a fishpond of one hectare or less compete with larger commercial concerns, often for the same waterlogged land. On a larger scale, the fish farmers may be restricted as to where they can rebuild ponds. In a bid to protect the coastal communities from any future tsunami threat, as well as protect the environment, the Indonesian authorities are studying the possible declaration of some coastal areas as zones for specific use – such as conservation, residential and commercial. Mangrove trees provide a naturally brackish habitat for fish, but much of Aceh’s mangroves have been cut down over the years, precisely to built fishponds.

ii) Fisher
Many of the men who fished for those tuna out at sea are still waiting to hear if they will have new boats and replacement gear – and who will make the 60 tonnes of ice a day they need to preserve their cacth. Meanwhile the Brackish-water Aquaculture Centre aims to play its part in a process to revive Aceh as one of Southeast Asia’s prestige breeding grounds for top-quality fish and shellfish.
More than 10 percent of Aceh’s fishermen were killed in the Dec. 26 tsunami, and more than 9,600 boats were lost. Replacing infrastructure is easy, compared with remaking fisheries policy and changing age-old practices of communities to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Now, the survivors need retraining and education program to find alternative livelihoods. “What is needed is a shift in the mindset, which is: let’s focus on building these communities, let’s empower them, rather than giving them a handout, a boat, or equipment”, said Dey, from world community in projects.
Consensus has grown in support of position of the World Fish Center, part of a network of research groups sponsored by bodies like the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Rebuilding Asia’s fisheries without structural reforms would only worsen their problems. Instead, emphasis should be put on generating land-based jobs and providing basic education and training to increase the social mobility of local fishers.

iii) Building of hope
In this year-end report, the Aceh reconstruction said 67,500 people were still in tents, many of which were deteriorating badly with the monsoon season setting in. Tens of thousands more stay in wooden barracks. Last month 16,500 homes had been built in Aceh, with 15,000 more under construction. Between 80,000 and 110,000 new homes are needed. In several villages, some survivors were giving away their land or selling it at a cheap rate to their community. “I am willing to give up my land here for the others because people have been through bad times. I am part of the people here, so we need to be united,” said Yahya Hasim. Despite the apparent lack of space and facilities, the community has started to teach the Koran to his son and several children in nearby tents. “The first thing I will do is hold more frequent meetings to study the Koran with the kids,” said Nurdin, when asked what he would do once he moves to his new house.
”We know the government is sick, so we’re not waiting for the government, we’re all just trying to get work or do what we can,” says the village’s patron, and 57-year-old traditional leader Yubahar Zaini. The 12 houses are all raised traditional style Acehnese houses but with a twist – they are constructed entirely from recycled timber left over by the deadly tsunami waves. The houses’ main structural poles are felled coconut trunks, cleaned and sanded, the floorboards scavenged from tsunami damaged houses, and the roofing is made from sago leaves, dried out and tightly packed. They were built at minimal expense and with minimal outside help.
Armed with just a simple saw, a hammer borrowed from a friend, and nails pulled from demolished houses, one of the survivor has built himself a small house made entirely from tsunami scavenged timber. Working like a maniac day and night to build house is only way to recover from this incomprehensible loss.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has provided tents, and after weeks of lobbying, the village has regular deliveries of drinking water supplied by the International Rescue Committee. But getting food delivered to this desolate camp is still difficult. The government is still drawing up a blueprint for Aceh, with building zones and property rights still to be clarified, many international aid groups trying to work with the government are hesitant about supporting these villages’ return by providing housing or starting small building projects here. Despite the uncertainty over whether Banda Aceh and the surrounding villages will be zoned as residential areas, dozens more people have begun setting up tents or simple timber huts in the surrounding coastal villages.
“I don’t really think about another tsunami. It’s not certain there will be another, but if a second tsunami does arrive, this time I feel ready. I’ll just run and run, I’m not afraid anymore,” said the villager.
Overall, the lot of children in Indonesia’s troubled Aceh Province is slowly improving after a year-long outpouring of humanitarian aid. Two-hundred and fifty schools have been built, 15,000 temporary houses have been constructed, and 60 health clinics have helped to restore medical services in relief camps around the province.

c. Political impact
The Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, or GAM) was founded on 4 December 1976 by Hasan di Tiro – a descendant of the last sultan of Aceh. The group has grown from an initial membership of just 150 rebels to a military strength now estimated at between 3,000 and 5,000. While Aceh has a higher concentration of Muslims than the rest of Indonesia, GAM is not seeking to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state. Its argument is more about history than religion. GAM maintains that when the Republic of Indonesia was formed in 1949, the Kingdom of Aceh should not have been included in the package, since, unlike the rest of the territory, it was never formally under Dutch colonial rule.
The rebels claim the Acehnese people were not consulted about the decision to become part of Indonesia, and are therefore fighting for a return of the province’s sovereignty. Although its leadership is now largely in exile in Sweden – where some senior GAM officials have been living since the early 1980s – the separatist organization still enjoys a high level of public support among the Acehnese population.

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Figure III. Indonesian army patrol in the Tsunami area

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news.html. 2005
The result of the ongoing conflict in Aceh is that for the last 30 years, the province’s citizens have been living in a low-level war zone – largely isolated from the rest of the world. Foreigners – including aid workers and journalists – have not been allowed into the region for some time, and accurate reports of the situation have therefore been hard to obtain. Since the 26 December tsunami, however, all that has changed.
International groups have been pouring into Aceh to provide aid to the devastated coastal regions, and both the government and GAM have declared a ceasefire to help aid get through to survivors. It remains to be seen what longer term effects the tsunami disaster will have on the separatist conflict. The government may feel under pressure to open some kind of communication channel with the rebels, and GAM is also likely to feel the need for a conciliatory gesture. Aceh’s beleaguered people have suffered one of the worst natural disasters in living memory, and the last thing they need is a renewal of hostilities between GAM and the Jakarta government.
Figure IV. The main negotiators-Indonesian Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin and chief mediator Martthi Ahtisaari and GAM head Malik Mahmud links hands after signing the agreement.
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Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news.html. 2005
“This is the beginning of a new era for Aceh,” said former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who mediated the talks. Efforts to end the conflict resumed after the tsunami in December, which destroyed vast swathes of Aceh.
Under the agreement, whose details were only released on Monday, the rebels have put to one side their demand for full independence, accepting instead a form of local self-government and the right eventually to establish a political party. In turn, the Indonesian government has agreed to release political prisoners and offer farmland to former combatants to help them reintegrate into civilian life. A human rights court will be established, as will a truth and reconciliation commission. Non-local Indonesian troops and police will leave Aceh, and GAM revels will disarm, in a process which will be overseen by a joint European Union and ASEAN monitoring team.
5. Conclusion
Devastating Tsunami on December 26, 2004 traveled thousands of kilometers across the Indian Ocean, taking the lives of more than 150.000 people in Aceh alone and destroying homes, infrastructure and natural habitats. Because of their destructiveness, tsunamis have important impacts on the human, social and economic sectors of societies.
The stress affects many kids. Some children had stopped talking and were beginning to experience nightmares and severe insomnia. Several hundred orphans still living in shelters made of palm leaves, rotting timber and cement bags, with some children bathing in a stagnant pool. Beside that, more than half the orphans are girls, many teenagers, could become targets for Indonesia’s enormous sex trafficking market.
The tsunami destroyed the fishponds and filled the ponds. More than half of Aceh’s 44 000 hectares of fishponds were destroyed. On a larger scale, the fish farmers may be restricted as to where they can rebuild ponds. Many of the men who fished are still waiting to hear if they will have new boats and replacement gear . Aceh still need 80,000 and 110,000 new homes.
The tsunami disaster also has effects on the separatist conflict. The government may feel under pressure to open some kind of communication channel with the rebels, and GAM is also likely to feel the need for a conciliatory gesture. Aceh’s beleaguered people have suffered one of the worst natural disasters in living memory, and the last thing they need is a renewal of hostilities between GAM and the Jakarta government.

Reference
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Anonym. 2005. Give fishermen livelihoods, not boats – fish group. http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/index.htm. Access on December 20, 2005

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Kearney, M. 2005. Aceh tsunami survivors rebuild hope. http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/news.html. Access on December 20, 2005

Kearney, M. 2005. Aceh tsunami orphans left stranded. http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/news.html. Access on December 20, 2005

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