Tsunami tourist threat

Having been to South East Asia previously, I thought I’d have Indonesia pretty sussed. Incidentally, I was wrong. My trip was a far richer experience than I could have hoped for, full of bartering, tuna fish on demand and plenty of puking. Read more here (or via Articles tab).

Back in October 2010 I read that the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia had been hit by yet another tsunami, and I had to think back to my 2008 trip where I witnessed firsthand the visible fear of a repeat event. According to Reuters and ReliefWeb there were over 400 deaths. Although fewer than the devastatingly high numbers of the 2004 and 2005 tsunamis and aftershocks, it continues a narrative of uncertainty for the locals. The sadness and trauma of losing family and friends in such a situation, and the mammoth task of rebuilding lives, once again, is unthinkable. 

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 and surf camps, so it’s likely that the potential 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 – its 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?

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Filed under activity & sport, indonesia, south east asia, surf

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