Indonesia earthquakes unlikely to disrupt IMF-World Bank events

Indonesia monitoring seismic activity, has contingency plans as Bali meetings loom

A woman carries her child as they make their way past collapsed homes in the village of Sugar on Indonesia's Lombok island, on Aug 20, 2018, after a series of earthquakes were recorded by seismologists PHOTO: AFP

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.

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 their 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 Oct 8.

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

Meanwhile, 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 central government resources for relief and rescue operations.

However, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho yesterday said it was not necessary to do so as Jakarta had already deployed 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 on 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 of people 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 IMF-World Bank meetings, but also the ongoing Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, putting the country under a global spotlight.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2018, with the headline Indonesia earthquakes unlikely to disrupt IMF-World Bank events. Subscribe