The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) is standing by the agency’s decision to end the tsunami warning during the first hours of the 7.4-magnitude earthquake that jolted Central Sulawesi on Friday.
Many claimed the agency had ended or revoked the tsunami warning too early, as high waves eventually hit several areas in the province, including the provincial capital of Palu, causing a high number of casualties.
BMKG chairwoman Dwikorita Karnawati, however, said the decision had been made after the agency received information, including a field observation from a staff member of BMKG’s office in Palu.
“The staff member reported that he had seen traces of tsunami waves at the harbor at around 6:27 p.m. local time, including a stranded boat. At that time, the height of the water at the harbor was around 30 centimeters,” she told The Jakarta Post over the phone on Sunday.
The agency, the chairwoman added, also analyzed mobile phone footage showing a tsunami hitting a coastal area of Palu that circulated online on Friday. The footage purportedly shows a number of restaurants near Palu Grand Mall being swept away by the wave.
“According to our analysis, three waves hit Palu’s beach around dusk, with the third one and the highest sweeping away houses and kiosks. The waves hit the beach within a span of 2.5 minutes,” Dwikorita said, adding that the tsunami alert ended at 6:37 p.m., minutes after the third wave hit land.
She also dismissed claims that there were more tsunami waves after the alert ended. “After the third wave, there were no more tsunami waves.”
As of Sunday, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) had recorded 832 deaths during the disaster, while 540 others were injured and receiving treatment at hospitals. The disaster has also displaced more than 16,000 people taking shelter at 24 camps across the region.