It was 14 years ago to the month that a 9.1-magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean off Indonesia struck the coast of Aceh province on Boxing Day, triggering tsunamis that killed 226,000 in Indonesia, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand and elsewhere. That pan-Asian disaster remains the benchmark by which Indonesia and other countries in and around the region must treat the threat of tsunamis and earthquakes even today. The latest natural disaster in Indonesia, a volcano-triggered tsunami which has left more than 400 people dead so far, is a reminder that nations must continue to prepare for what nature may unleash on them, often with little warning.
Shelter, assistance and reconstruction are priorities in the latest crisis. It is reassuring that more than 20,000 people have been moved to safer places, and help is streaming in. However, heavy rain, high tides and strong waves have complicated search and rescue efforts and aid delivery, even as fears of another tsunami from continued volcanic activity weaken the battered victims psychologically. At this precarious moment, Singaporeans have shown that they stand with Indonesians, ready to assist those affected with relief efforts should help be required. The Singapore Red Cross has stepped in already with humanitarian aid to support disaster recovery efforts and fund the purchase and distribution of relief items, including water filtration systems, blankets, sleeping mats and household kits. As an immediate neighbour and fellow member of Asean, Singapore is affected deeply by the human and economic cost of natural convulsions in Indonesia.