Following a devastating 7.7-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on September 28, members of International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member-society ORARI and other volunteers have been providing emergency communication for community and government interests. The quake and tsunami destroyed the city of Palu, completely cutting power and telephone connections, as well as the cellular communication infrastructure.
New IARU Region 3 Disaster Communication Coordinator Dani Halim, YB2TJV, said Amateur Radio operators in Indonesia immediately responded to the unfolding disaster, establishing an emergency net on 7.110 MHz. Amateur Radio volunteers from other regions also pitched in to support radio communication for emergency news on 7.110 MHz and 7.065 MHz. ORARI has asked that radio amateurs not involved in the emergency response avoid those frequencies. ORARI also activated the LAPAN-ORARI IO-86 satellite as a back-up communication channel. Some radio amateurs with mobile stations have traveled to the affected region to help.
According to Budi Santoso, YF1AR, on Java Island, the local Palu ORARI representative Ronny Korompot, YB8PR, was among the first contacted. Through his mobile station, he reported on conditions and the response, including evacuations. Sutrisno Sofingi, YB8NT, was also heard on 7.110 MHz using an emergency station he assembled at the disaster site. He said Amateur Radio was the only available communication with the outside world.
Amateur Radio also has assisted government agencies following severe damage to the telecommunication infrastructure. Hams operating on 2 meters were communicating information on which roads were open to allow traffic from the outside.
Halim reported that communication was established from the Luwuk Disaster Management Agency some 430 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter to obtain information on landslides and blocked roads and highways.
Salmin Sahidin, YB8IBD, in Southeast Sulawesi has been live streaming audio of the activity on 7.110 MHz via his Facebook page.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami has claimed upward of 900 lives and caused widespread devastation. Some victims have been reported to be trapped in the debris. The Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency has told news media that, in addition to communication, heavy equipment for rescue operations is limited. — Thanks to IARU Region 3 and Budi Santoso, YF1AR