Jakarta. All of Indonesia's tsunami buoys are inoperable due to vandalism and lack of maintenance, an official from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, or BNPB, said on Saturday (16/12).
Indonesia is forced to rely on tsunami warnings from other countries' buoys in the Indian Ocean and on manual monitoring.
"Since 2012, we don't have buoys to monitor potential tsunamis," BNPB spokesman Sutopo Nugroho told reporters at his office in Jakarta.
According to him, all of the 22 buoys are down, as they have not been maintained properly and because fishermen use them to anchor their vessels.
When the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) issued a tsunami warning late on Friday night, after an earthquake registering 6.9 on the Richter scale struck southern Java, volunteers were monitoring the sea surface.
"We now rely on five buoys owned by foreign countries — India's buoy in the northern part of Aceh, Thailand's on the Andaman Sea, Australia's two buoys in the southern part of Indonesia, and one in the northern part of Papua owned by the United States," Sutopo said.
He added that even though disaster mitigation has improved after the 2004 tsunami ravaged the region killing hundreds of thousands, anticipating disasters is not part of Indonesian culture, which makes it difficult for the authorities to respond in time.
Without the buoys, our tsunami early warning systems are still working, but not optimally, he said.
On Saturday morning, BMKG updated its data on the earthquake, saying that its epicenter was on the seashore, not on the floor of the Indian Ocean, as the agency previously reported.
"Three people died and 950 houses were destroyed by the main quake," Sutopo said.
Several public facilities, including schools, hospitals and places of worship, were also damaged.
"Nineteen aftershocks were recorded so far,"Sutopo told reporters.