Dr Ardhasena Sopaheluwakan: Being Prepared in the Face of Disaster

DISASTER AFTERSHOCK

Dr Ardhasena Sopaheluwakan: Being Prepared in the Face of Disaster

Devastation from natural disaster can’t be avoided. However, its effects can be minimised as they can certainly be prepared for. Indonesian climate expert Ardhasena Sopaheluwakan tells how.

It has been a horrifying month of August for Indonesia. A 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck for a second time in Lombok, south of a the village of Belanting, There were five deaths from the recent quake on the 19th of August, on top of the 450 deaths in an earlier quake this month. 

The inability to predict exactly when the next earthquake would strike makes its aftermath more disastrous.

As deputy director of Climate and Air Quality Research, Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dr Ardhasena has spent most of his career analyzing the cause of climate change and natural disasters.

In terms of prediction for earthquakes, the science isn’t there yet. We do have an early warning system for Tsunami. We are installing them for the whole Indian Ocean countries.

“In terms of prediction for earthquakes, the science isn’t there yet. We do have an early warning system for Tsunami. We are installing them for the whole Indian Ocean countries.”

“Whenever there’s a big earthquake for Sumatra that has a Tsunami potential we deliver the warning messages to our neighboring countries in the Indian Ocean, and coastal cities along it rim,” says Ardhasena.

Since 2011, Dr Ardhasena is no stranger to powerful natural disasters, which can easily take the lives of hundreds and thousands. However, according to Dr Ardhasena predicting the time, location and severity of most natural hazards are practically impossible.

“There is some predictability of warnings to predict the occurrence of drought.”

“We are able to predict drought well in advance one or two months before it actually happens,”states Ardhasena.

With the recent flood that hit Kerala, India, which affected thousands, the aftermath is devastating as victims try to pick up the pieces of their homes and search for their missing loved ones.

“I think as a stance now we can’t avoid the extreme weather. We should however understand the risks.”

I think as a stance now we can’t avoid the extreme weather. We should however understand the risks

“So, we should analyze the historical rainfall and the hazard’s risks. We should also try to understand what the risk of the future might hold,” states Ardhasena.

Extreme rainfall has always been a reoccurring issue in Malaysia. As flash floods usually happen every year during monsoon season due to drainage in some urban areas in Malaysia.

He added that armed with information on the future occurrences, our state of disaster literacy will be heightened. 

Dr Ardhasena defines disaster literacy as having countries at risk from these kinds of destruction to understand, prepare and eventually recover from the natural disaster.

“This will help any country to adapt with the impact of climate change and the impact of flood. Because we can’t avoid heavy rains, it will just come. So, the way we can do is we can adapt,” Ardhasena adds.

“In Southeast Asia I think extreme rainfall is the biggest threat and drought is the second.”

“We can see extreme rainfall quite visibly when it happens but drought comes slowly. So, think in terms of long term preparedness, countries should be prepared more towards handling drought rather than only floods,” says Ardhasena

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