The Sunflower

Indonesian tsunami hits close to home for sisters studying at WSU

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Indonesian tsunami hits close to home for sisters studying at WSU

Sisters and Wichita State students Larasati Poerbaningrum (left) and Lestari Poerbaningtyas (right) are from Java — one of more than 18,000 Indonesian islands.

Sisters and Wichita State students Larasati Poerbaningrum (left) and Lestari Poerbaningtyas (right) are from Java — one of more than 18,000 Indonesian islands.

Courtesy

Sisters and Wichita State students Larasati Poerbaningrum (left) and Lestari Poerbaningtyas (right) are from Java — one of more than 18,000 Indonesian islands.

Courtesy

Courtesy

Sisters and Wichita State students Larasati Poerbaningrum (left) and Lestari Poerbaningtyas (right) are from Java — one of more than 18,000 Indonesian islands.

Landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, and a volcanic collapse took the lives of thousands of Indonesians in just three months. The tsunami on Dec. 22 and landslide on New Year’s Eve landed two crushing blows to the island of Java, the place that two sisters studying at Wichita State, call home.

“We’re heartbroken,” said Larasati Poerbaningrum, a junior fine arts major. “It makes me want to cry if I think about it. I’m so far away and there’s a lot of stuff going on at home. There’s a lot of tsunamis this year, so it scares me.”

Poerbaningrum and her sister, Lestari Poerbaningtyas, a senior accounting major, are from Jakarta. Jakarta is part of the island of Java one of more than 18,000 Indonesian islands.

The sisters feared the worst when they heard reports that a tsunami hit the western coast of Java. The worst destruction was about 100 miles from home.

Though their family is uninjured, Poerbaningrum and Poerbaningtyas said they are still nervous about the future. Indonesia has experienced two deadly tsunamis in 12 weeks, and there’s been no siren sounded in advance of either.

A partial collapse of the Mount Anak Krakatau volcano caused the tsunami to slam into the west coast of Java and south coast of Sumatra just before 9:30 p.m. on Dec 22.  

It was uniquely brutal hitting on Saturday night over a holiday weekend, when many were out enjoying the beach under a full moon.

Poerbaningtyas said many people were vacationing. They were  enjoying themselves at concerts and bars. Seventeen, a popular band from Jakarta, was performing at a Christmas party at the Tanjung Lesong resort when the massive waves crashed through the stage, killing more than 100 people at the venue.

The tsunami took 437 lives on Java and Sumatra islands, according to the Indonesian national disaster agency. At least 16 people are missing and more than 33,700 residents were displaced.

The 16-foot waves weren’t as high as those from the tsunami on the Indonesian Sulawesi island on Sept. 28. Along with a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, the September disaster killed more than 2,000 and seriously injured 4,400, according to a national disaster agency spokesman.

“We just rebuilt from the last earthquake, so we’re heartbroken for sure,” Poerbaningtyas said. “Hearing that news is really devastating especially right in the holiday season.”

Though Indonesia is no stranger to earthquakes, which cause landslides and tsunamis, it’s hard to deal with so many concurrently. There has been no time for Indonesians to collectively catch their breath to rebuild roads, hospitals, and homes; plant crops; and get emergency management operations back online before another crisis.

The devastation is unyielding, and Poerbaningrum and Poerbaningtyas said getting messages from Jakarta is crucial to their peace of mind. There’s no telling when the big one will hit, they said, and that knowledge makes it especially difficult when family lives in a place where no sirens sound before deadly waves come calling.

Indonesia got their earthquake, tsunami, and landslide alert systems up and running after the disastrous Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, but their tsunami and landslide sensors have not been active since 2012.

Because most disasters start with the foundational earthquake, Indonesia hoped they’d be able to give warnings for everything through earthquake alerts.

The gamble failed. Now it’s put the people of Indonesia in an impossible situation.

“Before there was an eruption going on, we went there to see the [Mount Anak Krakatau] volcano,” Poerbaningrum said. “They said it was dead, so I’m shocked that happened. And they had no warning. It’s so sad.”

A state of emergency has been declared until Jan. 4 to allow for recovery efforts, but seasonal rains and high tides have complicated matters.

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