Responding to the Indonesia Tsunami with Locally Relevant News

More than 2,000 people lost their lives in the tsunami that struck Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island in late September. Responding to a need for information after the disaster, Internews mobilized with local partners, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and Katadata, to establish Kabar Sulteng Bangkit, or “The News of Central Sulawesi Rising.”

Two editors and one Facebook page admin from AJI, and four local journalists launched Kabar Sulteng Bangkit on Facebook on November 22. They operated out of the capital city Palu, an area that was hit especially hard by the tsunami. Kabar Sulteng Bangkit aimed to mitigate tensions by distributing inspiring content that taps into local wisdom, especially that which relates to disaster mitigation. The stories are from the victim’s perspective, are gender sensitive, and don’t link disasters with ethnicity, race and religious issues.

So far, the journalists’ stories have covered a wide range of issues. One journalist wrote about updates to the Disaster Prone Zonation Map so that it will include potential disaster areas that were originally excluded. “The short-term goal of this map is to ensure safe locations for the relocation of people who previously lived in the affected area,” said Syaifullah Djafar, Head of the Central Sulawesi Provincial Bina Marga and Spatial Planning Office.

Another article examined the issue of animal behavior as a sign of natural disasters. For generations, the Ngata Toro indigenous people in Central Sulawesi have believed that unusual changes in animal behavior are a sign of danger. The night before the tsunami, Rukmini Toheke, a Ngata Toro women’s activist, heard the crowing of chickens at an unusual time. In the morning, she evacuated her family to relatives’ homes on higher ground. After the tsunami, Rukmini found that her house had been lost in the mud.

A man stands at the edge of the ocean on a road damaged by the tsunami.
Researchers reveal another possible cause of the Palu Bay tsunami. Credit: Kabar Sulteng Bangkit

The science of tsunamis was discussed in another article that looked at the region’s geology and the possibility of installing sensor devices to provide an early warning system.

The Kabar Sulteng Bangkit Facebook page has close to 5,500 followers. Within one month of launching, the staff has collaborated with the Indonesian Red Cross, Save the Children, Emergency Response Capacity Building Consortium, Nebula FM Radio, Recover Radio and two local television stations, Palu TV and Radar TV. A live press conference, aired on a local radio station, raised awareness of the news source. Kabar Sulteng Bangkit has also been registered with UN OCHA on their website as an institution that participated in the post-disaster aid program process in Central Sulawesi. 

This project was made possible by funding from Global Giving.

(Banner image: Local journalists were hired to report for Kabar Sulteng Bangkit. Credit Internews)