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Living history: survivors speak out about the 2000 Banggai Tsunami in Indonesia

Date: 17 August 2022

A new initiative by UNESCO and the Indonesian agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics (BMKG), documents the story of survivors and eyewitnesses of the 4th May 2000 Tsunami in Banggai, Indonesia.

tsunami witness

UNESCO-IOC IOTIC-BMKG staff documenting one of the Banggai Tsunami 2000 eyewitness in Palam Village, Banggai Islands District (Photo ©UNESCO/Ardito M Kodijat).

The 7.6 Mw earthquake that generated the tsunami happened at 12:21 noon local time, with the epicenter around 38 km Northeast of the Salakan city of the Banggai Island District, Indonesia. A 3m tsunami hits several villages on the tip of Eastern part of Central Sulawesi and its surrounding islands. The earthquake and tsunami caused 54 deaths, more than 264 injuries, and destroyed at least 23.000 houses.

Under the partnership agreement of UNESCO and BMKG, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and its Indian Ocean Tsunami Information Center (IOTIC) documented 72 eyewitness and survivor accounts from 7 villages (Ponding-ponding, Palam, Bolonan, Kandek, Dodung, Kalumbatan, and Kayutanyo) in 3 districts (Banggai, Banggai islands, and Banggai Sea).

The initiative is framed around the project Preserving Past Tsunami Information for Future Preparedness, supported by the local Disaster Management Offices of the affected communities. The testimonial collection activities took place between 29 July - 6 August 2022.

These efforts complement a global push to ensure there is video documentation of eyewitnesses and/or survivors' stories of tsunamis that happened prior to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. 

UNESCO and BMKG have documented eyewitnesses and survivors story of the 1945 Makran tsunami, the 1950 Ambon tsunami, the 1938-1968-2018 Central Sulawesi tsunamis, the 1992 Flores tsunami, the 1994 Banyuwangi tsunami, and the 1996 Biak tsunami. 

These living heritage preservation efforts will continue in the next few years, complemented by  public awareness education booklets, and edited videos that will be made available for the public online and through social media.

Testimony of tsunami survivors:

“All of our houses collapsed into the sea” (Lolita, Kalumbatan Village, Banggai Islands District).

When the earthquake struck, I was in my room with my baby. I could not stand, I tried to get hold of my baby but could not. I heard my parents screaming telling me to get out of the house, but I could not even manage to stand. Not long after, my brother who could not speak, came into the room. He took the baby and grabbed me and pulled us out of the room. As we went out, I was thrown away to the wall. Finally, we managed to get out of the house. He gave my baby back to me. While we were sitting on the ground, maybe around 15 minutes, we heard people screaming, the sea water rises! the sea water rises! My parents told us to run away. My brother took the baby, and we started to run away. As we ran, I could see the sea water, it was quite high but did not like a wave, it was just a big shape of water rushing toward us (Nusra Tuolara of Palam Village, Banggai Islands District).

I was a Madrasah Tsanawiyah teacher (junior high school) at that time. The earthquake happened at noon right after we did the Shalat Dhuhur (afternoon prayer).  When it happened, we couldn't stand, I squatted holding the fence and all the children were surrounding me. Immediately after the shaking ended, we all went home. I went to my parent’s house. I saw my father was already on the beach, I went there to get him, he did not want to leave the beach. We then saw the sea water receding and came again. The third one was bigger, and I pulled my father, and we started to run. The sea water caught up with us as high as our knees, however, we still managed to escape and run to the hill (Yadi Abusama Linto of Kandek village, Banggai Sea District).

tsunami survivor

Community members in Ponding-ponding village watched a survivor of the Banggai Tsunami 2000 tells his story (Photo ©UNESCO/Ardito M Kodijat).

after tsunami

Remaining of the Banggai Tsunami 2000, a mosque that was built on a reef in Kalumbatan village in Banggai Island District (Photo ©UNESCO/Ardito M Kodijat).

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Find out more: (https://iotic.ioc-unesco.org/).