Tsunami, earthquake hits Indonesia: Another Asian economy hit by an environmental calamity

  • On Friday evening, three earthquakes and a tsunami hit the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia.
  • The death toll is calculated to be at 1,203 with two regions still unaccounted for.
  • The reconstruction costs and loss of human capital will further strain Indonesia’s already struggling economy.
After a series of earthquakes, including one that hit a 7.5 on the Richter scale, a tsunami reaching 1.5 meters in height hit Sulawesi island in the central region of Indonesia on Friday evening. In certain areas, the tsunami was even reported to go as high as six meters (20 feet).

The death toll had reached 1,203 as of Monday afternoon according to the Disaster Management Institute of Indonesia, Care for Humanity and Humanity Data Centre. This figure doesn’t include the headcount of two districts that were also heavily affects, Parigi Mountong and North Mamuju.

According to Sutupo Purwo Nugroho of the National Mitigation Agency, “Bodies of victims were found in several places, because they were hit by the rubble of collapsing buildings or swept by tsunami... But we are still collecting data.”

Aftershocks, totally around 215 so far, continue to the reverberate around the island causing a hindrance in rescue efforts and relief aid.

Economic fallout

It’s not just about the loss of infrastructure but the loss of human capital and connectivity. According the UN Office for Disaster Reduction, the Indonesian tsunami could affect up to 1.6 million people. Global losses from environmental calamities averages at around $250 billion to $300 billion annually, with Asia contributing towards the largest share.


That being said, the Indonesian president has authorised the government to accept international help for the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Sulawesi. This should help cushion the blow to the country’s tourism industry as well as the budget for reconstruction costs to a certain extent.

The tourism industry, especially, has been struggling to rebuild its image around a series of deadly earthquakes in July and August. After the tsunami, at least 18 flights to and from Palu have been cancelled until tomorrow. Indonesia precarious position amid the Pacific Ring of Fire has its 17,000 islands always enguard against earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

But even before the Sulawesi tsunami, the Indonesian economy wasn’t exactly thriving. Thanks to the China-US trade war, Bank Indonesia has already had to hike up its key rate rates five times since May in the shadow of the economy underperforming. The tsunami has only added to the pressure that was already restricting resources of the Indonesian government.

(Image source: WHO South East Asia Twitter)