UNESCO and UNDRR Launched Publication on Lessons Learnt from Palu for the Commemoration of 1 Year Palu Tsunami

To commemorate the 1 year tsunami Palu, UNDRR, UNESCO-IOC, BNPB and BMKG launched a publication “Limitation and Challenges in Tsunami Early Warning Systems: A Case Study of 28 September 2019 Palu-Donggala Tsunami” The publication was launched at the International Symposium on ”Lessons Learnt from the 2018 Tsunamis in Palu and Sunda Strait” held in BMKG Auditorium on 26-28 September in Indonesia.

The Tsunami of Palu and Donggala on September 28, 2018 opened our eyes and the world that the tsunami early warning system still faces big challenge especially for tsunamis based on sources outside the conventional scenario.  An estimated 3,879 people were killed in Palu City. At least 1,252 of the deaths were directly attributed to tsunami impact. This led to questions the limitation and challenges of the tsunami early warnings in saving lives of the people under tsunami threat during an event. Commissioned by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and UNESCO-IOC, a systemic approach study was initiated to document what happened on that fatal day, capture the lessons learned and to develop recommendations that can lessen the chances of another disaster.

The case study examined the effectiveness of InaTEWS by focusing on the downstream aspects of the system, in order to understand the community response to the 28 September 2018 earthquake and tsunami. The case study identified seven key issues based on interviews and eyewitness stories. Notably, the study shows that the end-to-end early warning system needs to be greatly strengthened to effectively bridge the gaps between upstream and downstream sides of the early warning chain to ensure timely community action. Within the downstream side, it is the “last mile” of communication that often determines the difference between life and death in the face of a disaster. It is only through bridging the last mile that we can ensure that no one is left behind. The study did illuminate some areas of strength that should be reinforced. One such area was the commendable effort by some members of the community in carrying out evacuations based on past knowledge and public education. Educational outreach and simulation efforts must be expanded to increase public awareness and strengthen the ability of citizens to self-evacuate.

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