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Between earthquakes and tsunami's YOGYAKARTA - The news of the heavy earthquake off the southern coast of Java came in unexpected, as usually the case with earthquakes. Initially BMG (the Weather and Geology office) reported a 6.8 magnitude quake almost 300 kilometers south of the central Javanese city of Bandung. That means the quake occurred at sea, at only a depth of around 33 kilometers. That's 'good' enough to cause a tsunami as well, and so it happened. A several meters high wave struck many parts of the southern coast of the entire island.

Pangandaran, a tourist location at the beach, is hardest hit with dozens dead and many buildings collapsed by a number of several meter high waves. A city nearby, Kebumen, reported heavy damage as well, and later also on other places on the southern shore reported in. Parangtritis beach, less than one hour south of here, reported three deaths as well, and many warung washed away or damaged. At that time I realized how real it all was, and how close as well. However in the first place I wanted to go to Pangandaran, this was not really an option, going there by motorbike takes far too long to arrange in such a short notice. Kebumen soon fell of the list as well, several hours less far than to Pangandaran, but still too far at the moment.

All I wanted to do is bring a short visit to the beach near Parangtritis, it's close and is damaged as well. I left early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day, because the weather promised to be sunny again. A bottle of water, a camera, an extra lens and a fully tanked motorbike would most likely do the trick. Before going there, I just had to bring a visit to a warnet to update the website, but that just took a few minutes as there hasn't been much news over the night, only a higher tally of casualties, as was to be expected.

Watch tsunami-damage in an earthquake hit area

It cannot be called 'shock and awe', because that is too much related to something that just happened, still it's a highly unusual thing for me to drive around through an earthquake-struck area. The only earthquakes I have been in until now are one in the Netherlands back in 1992, one time in Jakarta of about the same magnitude and just ten days ago, there was an aftershock here as well. But seeing the destruction in some parts of city of Yogyakarta alone was a pretty mind-blowing sight. Buildings that you assume to be safe (the new mall on Jalan Solo for example) has to be rebuild almost entirely now.

I know it would be much worse outside the city itself. Bantul was one of the hardest hit areas and is directly on route to Parangtritis and other beaches on the southern side of the island. From south of the railroad, damage visibly increases dramatically with every step you go south, I cannot say anything else about it. Near the southern ring road, where the ring road crosses the road towards Parangtritis, damage is bigger than in the heart of the city. Here, debris is not cleaned yet, only the center of the city is cleared by now. Completely flattened buildings directly along the main road are next to completely in tact ones. There is no clear line between government buildings, workshops or residential buildings nor did height (one or two storeys extra) make a difference for many of the collapsed buildings.

A tent serves as a makeshift shelter for the people who lost their house. They have to share their current life with the remains of their former home.
A tent serves as a makeshift shelter for the people who lost their house. They have to share their current life with the remains of their former home.

As I approached the town of Bantul, by now a well-known place in Indonesia since it was the center of attention in Java's recent earthquake of 27 May, piles of rubble were in the streets including the main road towards the south. Besides slowing down traffic, this also causes tremendous amounts of dust hanging over the road every time a vehicle passes by. People here already cleaned out the remnants of their houses, often leaving nothing more than their foundation. Separate piles of rubble have been created for reusable materials, small rubble and other materials. Bamboo is for sale at every corner, even more than usual. Makeshift houses on the foundations or in gardens are often made from some bamboo poles and some easy-to-make mats, which are used for walls and roof. Some plastic to protect it from the rain.

I passed several villages that are located near the main road. I just had to turn left or right and I would be able to see what damage an earthquake can do. I did not go there yet. Primarily because I wanted to be at the seaside as soon as possible, before loads of local turis bencana (disaster tourists) flock to the site as well. I am for sure not the only person that would like to have some pictures of things that happen around me. Lately it is just all disaster that strikes, hopefully it will be pictures of a lighter kind in the future. On the other hand, I felt somewhat awkward to enter villages and making pictures, that is not a small issue as well. Ooh well, I could always give it a try on the way back home.

Parangtritis beach

For the first time, they did not charge me for entering the gate that indicates that there is a tourist destination ahead. Generally you are assumed to pay a small fee for each person and each vehicle you bring in. Now, the guy was reading his newspaper. Apparently, there are not enough tourists to wait for. It has to be something like that, because normally the people here are very eager to get money, but as long as it doesn't take too much effort. This guy was a civil servant however, so why he was reading his newspaper during office-hours remains a mystery to me since I didn't ask him.

The sand on the roads means that I was almost there. I noticed not too many people around and several 'lost' tourist buses were parked outside the gates of the tourist beach area, so I doubt if there were tourists in them, as people don't like to walk too much if possible. I drove all the way towards the beach. At this early hour it was still quite empty and I could park close to the beach. Yes, I don't like to walk too much either. I parked the bike and noticed there was not a single person to collect my 2,000 Rupiah parking fee. The ground was wet as if had just rained a few hours ago.

At Parangtritis beach, the first row of small bamboo and wood restaurants, built on the shore, have sustained damage, or had lost their chairs and tables. Some of them were put away many meters before they were stopped by another object.
At Parangtritis beach, the first row of small bamboo and wood restaurants, built on the shore, have sustained damage, or had lost their chairs and tables. Some of them were put away many meters before they were stopped by another object.

A short walk to the shore showed me that something had changed indeed since the last time I was here. There were less people, but then again, it was still early in the morning. The beach was all wet, however the waves were dozens of meters back. A new pile of sand had engulfed part of the numerous small restaurants at the beach, stripping many of them from their tables, chairs and small kitchens. Some people were salvaging stuff on the beach that might be theirs. Bamboo and pieces of wood lie scattered on the beach. A lonely cart with horse passes by on the shoreline.

When I turn around I see more people looking for their belongings, looking for bamboo that has been washed away, a chair stuck in the sand. Others are taking pictures of the scene as well, some include me as the only foreigner at the beach at this early time. One man is making a short movie, probably for himself as well. All together, the number of turis bencana can still be counted on one hand at the moment. That will likely change when the day gets older and more people want to see what a tsunami does without traveling to Aceh or that kind of 'remote' places.

On the way home

After little more than half an hour, I had enough pictures and I headed back to Yogyakarta. On the way I would try to find a village that has been severely damaged. Obviously that wasn't that hard of course, as almost every village has heavy damage from the earthquake two months ago. I turned left and right several times along the main road, but I could not find what I was looking for: a village with some people in sight so I could speak to them directly. I don't like people popping up after I already made pictures.

One of the villages where still plenty of people were outside was Dusun Plumuntan, not too far from Jetis town, half way between Parangtritis and Yogyakarta and just several hundred meters away from the main road. As school kids went to school by bike, elderly people just sat on pieces of fallen fence, a part of a house or on a small plastic chair salvaged from the rubble. Others did the laundry outside on a concrete slab that used to be their village house. Upon seeing me, the people still smiled friendly, eager to know what this foreigner with his camera is doing. A short explanation that I make pictures (for internet) and handshake.

The same happened not too far from Dusun Plumuntan, at a primary school in the town of Jetis. The school, located at 40 meters from the main road, had almost entirely collapsed during the earthquake. Now there is an emergency school set up with funds from Indonesian TV station SCTV and newspaper Republika. The kids can go to school again and they are still enjoying someone with a camera as they used to do before. As I tried to make some pictures of the old collapsed building and the new, wood and plywood one, kids jumped in front of the lens every time. I had to be really quick.

Back home I still don't realize what it means to be a victim of an earthquake or any other big natural event of such kind. For the first time in my life I now have the chance to see what the aftermath is and how long it will take to (fully) recover from such an event. Maybe I should be happy to have that chance, but that also means that I have the chance to be a victim of it too. Earthquakes are not very common in central Java, yet there were two big ones. Above that, Gunung Merapi, one of the most active volcanoes on the planet, is only at less than 25 kilometers from where I write this down. Those are things to remember for sure, although they should not take over your life.



Posted in Earthquake @ 18 July 2006 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

indahnesia.com lists all earthquakes that occur in Indonesia. For your convenience we display them in a list and a Google Map. It is as accurate and recent as you can imagine as we check for updates every few minutes. If an earthquake occurs in Indonesia, this is the place to check it out in the first place.






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