Tsunami in Indonesia 2018 | ActionAid UK

Tsunami in Indonesia 2018

In September 2018 an earthquake and a tsunami hit Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province killing more than 2,100 people and causing widespread destruction. It was one of the biggest earthquakes to hit the country.

ActionAid was able to respond straightaway, working closely with partners to provide relief and support including distribution of food and sanitary kits for women.  ActionAid will continue to support to communities to recover over the next 2 years. 

We prioritised women’s leadership during the crisis and trained women to play an active part in supporting their communities.

Indonesia earthquakes and tsunami: facts and figures

When did the tsunami take place?

On Friday 28th September 2018, an earthquake of 7.4 magnitude struck the central province of Sulawesi in indonesia. 

On Saturday 22nd December, undersea landslides triggered a tsunami around Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands of Indonesia. The most affected areas included Carita Beach in Banten Province, as well as districts of Padenglang, South Lampung and Serang.

What is a tsunami?

A tsunami is a giant wave. Tsunami waves can travel up to speeds of jet planes over deep waters, only slowing down when reaching shallow waters.

What causes a tsunami?

Tsunamis are caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions beneath the sea. As waves move closer to the shore, they become increasingly high as the ocean’s depth reduces.

Where is Indonesia?

Indonesia is in Southeast Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It has more than thirteen thousand islands, making it the world’s largest island country.

What were the worst affected areas?

The aftershocks and landslides caused significant damage and loss of life in the affected areas of Palu, Sigi, Donggala and Parigi Moutong. 



Sulawesi Earthquake - Palu area

Map showing the Sulawasi earthquake


What is soil liquefaction?

There were reports and footage of buildings collapsing after the Indonesian earthquake due to soil liquefaction. It occurs in saturated, loose soil that is suddenly shaken, causing the bond between particles to loosen. This means the soil begins to behave like a liquid, and can no longer support foundations for buildings. 

What was the scale of the damage?

  • 2,100 people lost their lives and a further 23,000 were injured.
  • More than 70,000 people were displaced.
  • 1.5 million people were affected and hundreds of thousands of survivors were left without food, water and shelter. 
The aerial view of affected by the earthquake and liquefaction at Balaroa. The Balaroa area is a densely populated residential area.

The aerial view of affected by the earthquake and liquefaction at Balaroa. The Balaroa area is a densely populated residential are.

Photo: ActionAid

What was ActionAid’s response to the Indonesian tsunami?

Immediate response

In the first two weeks, YAPPIKA-ActionAid (YAA) worked with a network of local organisations called ‘Sulteng Bergerak’ to bring relief to at least 60,000 people.  Local volunteers provided supplies, ran emergency kitchens serving hot food to displaced people and participated in search and resuce missions. 

  • In the first two weeks since the disaster, ActionAid and its partners launched a team of more than 60 staff and volunteers in Palu, Donggala, and Sigi — working round the clock, delivering aid to thousands of affected people.
  • Our emergency appeal raised nearly £1.2m.
  • We opened public kitchens in twelve of the worst hit areas where thousands remain without food or proper shelter. Our public kitchens on the West Coast, Donggala, Sigi and the city of Palu are have served thousands of people a day with hot, nutritious meals.
  • 1,785 families were provided with food through the community kitchen and food kits.
  • We reached at least 60,000 people with emergency aid, including tents, tarpaulins and blankets to shelter families who lost their homes, and food, water, clothing and nappies.
  • 400 sanitary kits were distributed to women and girls to manage their periods safely.
  • Three women-friendly spaces were set up reaching at least 600 women directly.


Long-term response

We then launched a six-month response with our partners on the ground, focusing on food, water, shelter, psycho-social support and the protection of women and girls living in temporary camps. We’re supporting families by rebuilding homes for the most vulnerable, supporting sustainable livelihoods such as farming and recovery of women’s economic activity such as trading or food processing so families can once again earn a living. 



Page updated 17 June 2019