Following a devastating 7.7 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia on September 28, members of the International Union of Radio Amateurs (IARU) member company Organisasi Amatir Radio Indonesia (OARI) and other volunteers provided emergency communication for community and government interests. The earthquake and tsunami destroyed the city of Palu, completely severing electrical and telephone connections, as well as cellular communication infrastructure.
New IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Coordinator Dani Halim, YB2TJV, said amateur radio operators in Indonesia immediately responded to the ongoing disaster, establishing an emergency network on 7.110MHz. Amateur radio volunteers from other areas also contributed radio communication for emergency news on 7.110 MHz and 7.065 MHz. OARI has asked radio amateurs not involved in the emergency response to avoid these frequencies. OARI has also activated the LAPAN-OARI IO-86 satellite as a backup communication channel. Some radio amateurs with mobile stations traveled to the affected area to help.
According to Budi Santoso, YF1AR, on the island of Java, local Palu OARI representative Ronny Korompot, YB8PR, was among the first contacted. Through his mobile station, he reported on conditions and 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 communication available with the outside world.
Amateur radio has also assisted government agencies following severe damage to telecommunications infrastructure. Hams operating on 2 meters communicated information about open roads to allow traffic from outside.
Halim reported that communication was established from the Luwuk Disaster Management Agency about 430 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter for information on landslides and blocked roads and highways.
Salmin Sahidin, YB8IBD, in Southeast Sulawesi was live audio broadcast activity on 7.110 MHz via its Facebook page.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami claimed over 900 lives and caused widespread devastation. Some victims were reportedly trapped in the debris. Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency told media that in addition to communication, heavy equipment for rescue operations is limited. — Thanks to IARU Region 3 and Budi Santoso, YF1AR