From the Field

2018 Indonesia earthquake: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province on Sept. 28, 2018, triggering a tsunami and landslides that caused widespread destruction and loss of life. More than 2,000 people are known to have died and at least 2,500 are seriously injured, according to the Indonesia disaster management agency. About 1.5 million people in Central Sulawesi are likely affected. With about 65,000 houses damaged or destroyed, more than 330,000 people are homeless or without adequate shelter.

The Central Sulawesi quake occurred less than two months after a series of earthquakes struck Indonesia’s Lombok island. The strongest of those quakes was a magnitude 6.9 temblor on Aug. 5. More than 500 people were killed and nearly 1,500 were injured. About 340,000 people are still displaced.

The people affected by Indonesia’s 2018 earthquakes will need help for years as they rebuild their lives, homes, and communities.

2018 Indonesia earthquakes timeline

Indonesians in Java and Sumatra experienced earthquakes this year in April and July respectively, but the most damaging quakes of 2018 occurred since then on Lombok island and in Central Sulawesi.

July 28, Aug. 5, Aug. 9, Aug. 19

  • A series of earthquakes and numerous aftershocks badly affected North and East Lombok, including Mataram city, the provincial capital, which is home to 440,000 people.

September 28

  • 28: A magnitude 7.5 quake and tsunami killed more than 2,000 people and laid waste to Palu, the capital, and nearby areas on Sulawesi island.
2018 Indonesia earthquake and tsunami location map shows affected area and the point on impact in Central Sulawesi.
2018 Indonesia earthquake and tsunami location map shows affected area and the point of impact in Central Sulawesi. (©2018 image courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey)

FAQs: What you need to know about the 2018 Indonesia earthquakes

Explore frequently asked questions about the 2018 Indonesia earthquakes and tsunami, and learn how you can help children and families affected by disasters in Indonesia.

Fast facts: 2018 Indonesia earthquakes and tsunami

  • Earthquakes greater than magnitude 6 occur almost yearly in Indonesia.
  • Nine significant earthquakes have hit Indonesia during 2018; six measured magnitude 6.0 or greater.
  • About 300,000 people are still displaced from major earthquakes that hit Lombok island on July 29, Aug.5, Aug. 9, and Aug. 19.
  • The full extent of damage and loss of life has yet to be determined from the magnitude 7.5 Central Sulawesi quake and tsunami on Sept. 28.


Why are there earthquakes in Indonesia?

Indonesia is an archipelago that includes thousands of volcanic islands, which are created over time as plates shift and molten rock, or magma, exerts pressure. The Southeast Asian country is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where slabs of the earth’s crust — tectonic plates — clash, creating earthquakes when the plates shove against one another. Ninety percent of earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire.

Among the most deadly earthquakes in history was the magnitude 9.1 quake that struck off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Dec. 26, 2004, triggering a massive tsunami. This disaster killed nearly 230,000 people in multiple countries.


What other kinds of disasters occur in Indonesia?

In addition to earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes associated with the Ring of Fire, Indonesia is prone to droughts and floods. Java and Sumatra, the southern and western islands, experience a wide variety of natural hazards. On the other islands, droughts and floods are most frequent. In inland areas with steep terrain, heavy rains cause not only flooding but also landslides.

Indonesians have a history of clearing land by burning, which has turned into an environmental hazard as more land is needed for cultivation. The 2015 fires, the worst in 20 years, exposed millions of people in Southeast Asia to toxic haze.


How have children been affected by the 2018 Indonesia earthquakes?

Children who were affected by the 2018 Indonesia earthquakes and tsunami may have lost family members and friends as well as their homes and possessions. The Indonesian government and humanitarian organizations are working together to ensure protection for children to prevent trafficking and exploitation.

Like their adult caregivers, they need shelter, clean water and sanitation, and access to medical care, but they also need support to return to play, education, and a sense of security.

“Ensuring that survivors have their immediate needs met with adequate shelter, food, and water will be critical over the coming days,” says Doseba Sinay, World Vision’s national director for Indonesia. “It will also be crucial to ensure children are cared for. Our past experience of dealing with quakes has shown that children will be deeply distressed and feel vulnerable if they have lost family members, homes, or have lost their sense of security.”

Ten-year-old Olivia told staff at a World Vision Child-Friendly Space, “the earthquake has destroyed and swallowed up our home.” Olivia was at a village football game when the quake hit. Her father grabbed her hand and ran with her to the top of a hill as the ground moved and people cried out. Now her family lives under a tarpaulin cover at an evacuation center. Olivia’s school books and uniform are gone; she has only the clothes she was wearing. But what makes her most sad is that she lost her favorite toy, her Barbie doll.


How can I help children and families in Indonesia?

World Vision staff are mobilizing and responding to deliver relief supplies to affected communities as quickly and safely as possible.

  • Give: Consider helping us continue the flow of emergency supplies by donating to World Vision’s Indonesia earthquake relief fund.
  • Pray: Join us in praying for people affected by the earthquake as well as for World Vision staff and emergency responders have begun operations. Almighty Father, we ask for Your mercy on those affected by the earthquakes and tsunami. Protect people. Guide aid workers and emergency responders in the hard-hit areas and as relief measures begin in earnest.


How is World Vision responding to the Indonesia earthquakes?

World Vision established its ministry in Indonesia in 1960. Over the years, we have focused on improving the lives of children through long-term development programs that emphasize health, education, livelihoods, water and sanitation, and disaster risk reduction. World Vision has also responded to disasters in Indonesia, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Soon after the 2018 earthquakes in both Lombok and Sulawesi, staff of Wahana Visi, World Vision’s locally-registered partner, sprang into action and began distributing pre-positioned emergency supplies, including family household items, shelter kits, and hygiene supplies. Indonesian staff, many who had suffered losses themselves in the earthquake, stepped up to serve their own people. Their consistent efforts are helping reduce suffering and paving the way for long-term recovery.

Our earthquake responses are focused on child protection, educational programs for children, and water, sanitation, and hygiene. A feeding center was quickly set up in World Vision’s office compound in Palu city, Central Sulawesi, to help mothers care for and feed their children.

Child-Friendly Spaces provide a safe place for children to return to a normal more normal routine through play and group activities. In Lombok, about 740 children have participated so far. Ten Child-Friendly Spaces in four villages of Central Sulawesi are serving more than 800 children.

Through Oct. 10, 2018, distributions for the Central Sulawesi earthquake have included:

  • 8,500 liters of clean water for 217 families
  • Food packs for 314 families (1,256 people)
  • Shelter kits for 423 families


  • Sign up for disaster alerts


Heather Klinger, Kristy J. O’Hara-Glaspie, Sevil Omer, and Kathryn Reid of World Vision’s staff in the U.S. contributed to this article.

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