Indonesia says IMF-World Bank meetings will not be affected by Lombok quakes

Hospital patients at Sanglah General Hospital in Bali, Indonesia, are moved outside after a large earthquake struck on the nearby island of Lombok on Aug 19, 2018.
Hospital patients at Sanglah General Hospital in Bali, Indonesia, are moved outside after a large earthquake struck on the nearby island of Lombok on Aug 19, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS/ANTARA FOTO

JAKARTA - Indonesia is confident that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank annual meetings in Bali in October will not be affected by the recent earthquakes in nearby Lombok island.

The government, however, will continue to monitor seismic activity in the area, as well as relocate an auxiliary tarmac from Lombok to Banyuwangi in East Java, as part of its contingency plans, officials in Jakarta said this week.

The apron at Lombok International Airport in West Nusa Tenggara, had been designated as a parking area for planes carrying delegates for the event in Bali.

"With the situation in Lombok, we have to prepare Banyuwangi to accommodate more aircraft," Economic Affairs Coordinating Ministry secretary Susiwijono Moegiarso told state news agency Antara on Monday (Aug 21).

As many as 15,000 international visitors are expected to descend on Bali for the IMF-World Bank event, with many hoping to take in the other resort island of Lombok.

But a series of earthquakes, which started with a 6.4-magnitude quake on July 29, may have put paid to any plans for a quick stop-over.

The force of the quakes and its aftershocks, which included a 6.9 magnitude tremor on Sunday, in Lombok were also felt in Bali, located about 160km away.

Relief efforts are underway with the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) saying that nearly half a million people had been displaced and more than 500 killed in the disaster.

Mr Susiwijono, who also chairs an organising committee for the IMF-World Bank meetings, insisted the event would proceed as scheduled.

"There are no plans to hold the meeting in another place, we are confident Nusa Dua is safe," he said, referring to the popular tourist area in southern Bali where the events are taking place from October 8.

Mr Susiwijono added that the IMF and World Bank have also been apprised of the preparations.

Meanwhile, local officials in West Nusa Tenggara as well as a handful of lawmakers in Jakarta have urged the government to declare a national disaster in Lombok.

This would allow the regional government to tap resources from the central government for relief and rescue operations.

However, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho on Tuesday said it was not necessary to do so as Jakarta had already deployed the personnel from the Indonesian military, national police, national search and rescue agency Basarnas, as well as other relevant ministries to deal with the aftermath of the quakes.

"We have deployed resources to the region, so the national disaster status is not relevant here," said Dr Sutopo.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic activity that runs around the Pacific Ocean where 90 per cent of earthquakes occur.

This latest series of earthquakes in Lombok comes amid concerns over the conditions of Mount Agung, a volcano in Bali that has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life last November.

Dozens of flights to and from Bali were cancelled after it spewed ash into the sky, resulting in thousands being stranded at the local airport.

Activity on Mount Agung has since tapered off but officials remain on edge because Indonesia is not only hosting the the IMF-World Bank meetings, but also the ongoing Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, putting it under a global spotlight.