When I heard that the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia had been hit by yet another tsunami, I had to think back to a trip I took over to Nias in 2008 where I witnessed first hand the visible fear of a repeat event. According to Reuters and ReliefWeb there have been over 280 deaths, and while this is not yet closing in on the devastatingly high numbers of the 2004 and 2005 tsunamis and aftershocks, it continues a narrative of uncertainty for the locals.
The worst hit would appear to be the Mentawis – popular with global surfers searching for empty, isolated warm water breaks. The people on the Mentawis don’t typically benefit much from tourism as it is increasingly being monopolised by private liveaboard setups, so it’s likely that the potential of a drop in travellers (as a result of this disaster) won’t be of primary concern.
However, it is of some concern that people may be deterred from visiting Sumatra altogether – it’s presence in the press and broadcast media being predominantly negative and foreboding. The Ring of Fire fault lines will continue to produce earthquakes of varying magnitudes, but the waiting game could be months, decades or more.
Staying away for fear of getting caught up in such a disaster could indeed be wise, but when did playing it safe ever satisfy adventurous spirits?
My thoughts are with the people currently battling for survival, and for the mammoth task ahead to rebuild their lives once again.