Teku Fathani-3a

Teuku Faisal Fathani

Teuku Faisal Fathani
Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Universitas Gadjah Mada Yogyakarta (UGM)


2018 Palu Earthquake and Tsunami: Toward the Reconstruction and Recovery

Teuku Faisal Fathani1, Wahyu Wilopo1, Agung Setianto1, Esti Anantasari1, Michele Daly2, Phil Glassey2, Richard Woods2

1 Center for Disaster Mitigation and Technological Innovation (GAMA-InaTEK), Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia, 2 GNS Science, New Zealand

On 28 September 2018, an earthquake followed by tsunami in Central Sulawesi caused severe damage and resulted in a death toll of more than 2000 people. The epicenter of the M7.4 earthquake was northeast of Palu City (0.18 South Latitude and 119.89 East Longitude), at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers. The earthquake occurred at 18:02:45 Central Indonesian Time. Seven aftershocks were recorded until 18:21 with magnitudes of M6.3, M6.2, M6.2, M4.7, M56, M5.0, and M6.1 respectively. The M7.4 earthquake was followed by a series of tsunami waves as high as 6 m. The earthquake caused liquefaction and earth flows, which affected a large 380 hectare area in Sigi District and Palu City.

Sulawesi Island has several geologic structures, one of which is the Palu Koro Fault. The fault is 240 km long north to south, crossing Palu City to Bone Bay. The Palu Koro Fault is an active sinistral fault which moves north 25-30 mm/year. As a result, earthquakes often occur in the area. One of the important historical earthquakes is the 1927 M6.3 earthquake which was followed by a 15 m high tsunami wave causing 2,500 casualties. The 28 September 2018 earthquake was also caused by the Palu Koro Fault. Other notable phenomena caused by the 28 Sept 2018 earthquake were tsunami, liquefaction and earth flows. Current expert opinion is that the tsunami was most likely caused by a submarine landslide. The landslide occurred in Tanjung Labuan/Wani Palu Bay between 200 and500 m deep. The liquefaction that occurred in several areas was then followed by earth flows. The liquefaction was caused by earthquake induced shaking in a soil layer dominated by saturated fluvial and alluvial sediments. The liquefaction hazard map published by the Geological Agency (2012) had already identified that Palu City had a high to very high liquefaction potential.

Since 2011, Palu has been one of the targeted areas in the disaster risk reduction (DRR) capacity building activity of StIRRRD (Strengthened Indonesian Resilience – Reducing Risk from Disasters). Gadjah Mada University (UGM) and GNS Science, with funding support from the NZ Aid Programme, has been assisting the Government of Indonesia to reduce the impact of natural disasters by improving the DRR capability of the local government and local university in selected districts. Examples of activities undertaken in Palu include the development of DRR action plans, training in disaster risk assessment methodologies and the use of risk modeling techniques such as RiskScape, and the Seismometer in Schools program, which aims to increase education about the seismicity of Central Sulawesi, as well as earthquake and tsunami mitigation and preparedness. These projects are ongoing, with 5 seismometers having just been installed in March 2018, and a further risk modeling training workshop planned for April 2019. The government of Palu and Tadulako University have invested in increased disaster resilience as a result of StIRRRD. Tadulako University has added courses on disaster management and earth sciences to its curriculum, conducted a microzonation study of Palu, and implemented an earthquake disaster preparedness program. The local development planning agency has increased it spatial planning capability.

Since 2014, UGM has carried out research related to seismic activity in Palu, Central Sulawesi. The research on sediment thickness using microtremors indicates that the mountainous area has a low seismic hazard index while the coastal plain has a high seismic hazard index. The sediment thickness in Palu ranges from >125 m to <25 m. The sediment thickness can influence the amplification of seismic waves; thicker sediment in an area means higher amplification and the damaging effects of the earthquake are more significant as a result. This research can be used to guide the recovery and future development plan for Palu City. The presenter is also a member of the Palu Recovery Expert Advisory Group and is able to draw on StIRRRD’s experience and knowledge of Palu and the surrounding area. Changing the mindset from a culture of ‘being prepared to respond’ to being a ‘resilient city’ is a long process and can take generational change. Palu is making good progress on this journey, however, given the damage and the high death toll from the 28 September 2018 earthquake, continued mitigation efforts from relevant stakeholders and the community is still very much required.


Teuku Faisal Fathani received his Ph.D from Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology of Japan in 2005 and then continued his post-doctoral research at Ehime University in 2010 and the University of Iowa 2013-2014. He is currently a professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Universitas Gadjah Mada Yogyakarta (UGM). He has five patents related to multi-modal sediment disaster warning devices and becomes a prominent name in research in this area. Prof. Fathani was awarded several honors, such as Technology Innovator 2015 from Ministry of Higher Education, Technology, and Research and the honorary medal 2016 from the Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia. He is also certified as an adjunct professor of UNESCO Chair on Geoenvironmental Disaster Reduction 2018-2020. At present, he serves as the Director of Center for Disaster Mitigation and Technological Innovation (Gama-InaTEK) UGM; Vice President of International Consortium on Geo-Disaster Reduction (ICGdR); Co-Director of StIRRRD (Strengthening Indonesian Resilience: Reducing Risk from Disasters), and Director of Master Program in Disaster Management (MMB), Graduate School UGM. He is also a member of International Consortium on Landslides (ICL), Multi-modal Sediment Disaster Network (MSD-Network) and Indonesian Society for Geotechnical Engineer (ISGE). In 2015, he was appointed to be the project leader to draft the National and International Standard on Multi-disasters Early Warning System that has been published as SNI 8235:2017 and ISO 22327:2018 on Landslide Early Warning System.