The United States’ regional hegemony in world is under threat like never before. For the first time in decades, both allies and rivals are openly questioning America’s staying power in this lately dynamic world.
The acute deluge of doubt over American leadership in Asia has been exacerbated by the country’s both absolute and relative decline in key dimensions of power. Both militarily and economically, China is rapidly chipping away at America’s long-held edge over its rivals.
Meanwhile, the toxic partisanship in Washington D.C., and the dramatic collapse in public confidence in American state institutions, hardly inspires confidence in the wherewithal of American presidents.
In many ways, President Donald Trump, who is confronting multiple scandals, particularly over alleged Russian electoral intervention in his behalf, is increasingly seen as the harbinger of a precipitous collapse in America’s global standing.
As one senior official from an allied nation said this year, “is this how superpowers commit suicide?” Under Trump, America is facing its greatest soft power disaster in recent memory, far outstripping the infamous days of George W. Bush in the aftermath of the Iraq War.
According to the latest Pew Research Center survey, global confidence in American global leadership suffered a dramatic setback, falling from average of 64 percent under former President Barack Obama to just around 22 percent today. The situation is particularly alarming among Asia’s most important allies in Asia.
Richard Javad Heydarian, Assistant Professor in international affairs and political science, De La Salle University
The relatively new aircraft type involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash is popular with Irish lessors – Peter Hamilton
Ireland’s main aircraft lessors have had at least 224 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft delivered or are on order, figures compiled by The Irish Times show.
The relatively new aircraft type has recorded two fatal crashes since its entry into service, including that of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 and Lion Air flight 610.
Dublin-headquartered SMBC Aviation Capital appears to be the biggest owner of MAX 8s that operates out of the Republic, with five owned, three managed and about 110 committed. The company recently delivered one to Icelandair, and in December signed a deal with US budget carrier Southwest for 12 MAX 8s in a sale and leaseback agreement.
There are 13 Boeing 737 MAX 8s on the Irish aircraft register, the Irish Aviation Authority has said. It will not follow the lead of regulators in China, Ethiopia and Indonesia, all of whom ordered carriers to ground the 737 MAX model in the wake of the latest crash, which displayed similarities to the earlier Lion Air incident.
Norwegian Air has no current plans to withdraw its 737 MAX aircraft, and Ryanair has said it is reserving judgment on similar models it has ordered. The Irish airline is due to take delivery of 200 Boeing 737 MAX-8s out to 2024.
Some of the aircraft grounded by Chinese and Indonesian authorities include aircraft owned by Irish lessors including SMBC and Avolon.
In December, SMBC delivered the first MAX 8 from its order book to Chinese carrier Lucky Air, with three more to be delivered in the first and second quarter of this year.
In the summer of 2017, Avolon delivered two MAX 8 planes to Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air having originally delivered the world’s first MAX 8 to Malindo Air in May 2017.
Lion Air flight 610 crashed in October 2018, killing all passengers on board, but that specific plane was not owned by any Irish aircraft lessor.
In total, Avolon has agreed to firm orders for 55 MAX 8 aircraft, with options for an additional 20. Goshawk, meanwhile, owns 24 MAX 8s, while AerCap appears to hold five. However, it’s not clear whether AerCap has more on order. The lessor declined to comment.
Other entities which have operations in the Republic with MAX 8s include BBAM and GE Capital Aviation Services.
Fly Leasing has two Boeing 737 MAX 8s. The company’s chief executive, Colm Barrington, has been dealing with Ethiopian Airlines for more than 20 years.
“They’re a fantastic airline who I’ve recently used myself. We’ve had nothing but good experiences with them.”
Mr Barrington added that Fly Leasing has no more orders in for MAX 8s.
It is believed that the aircraft that crashed on Sunday was directly owned by the airline rather than leased.
US manufacturer Boeing has faced questions over the safety of the aircraft given the fact that two have been involved in fatal crashes despite its relatively recent introduction into airline fleets.
The company said in a statement that a technical team would be travelling to the crash site to provide assistance to the Ethiopian accident investigation bureau.
The Dec. 23 tsunami killed around 430 people along the coastlines of the Sunda Strait, capping a year of earthquakes and tsunamis in the vast archipelago, which straddles the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire.
No sirens were heard in those towns and beaches to alert people before the deadly series of waves hit shore.
Seismologists and authorities say a perfect storm of factors caused the tsunami and made early detection near impossible given the equipment in place.
But the disaster should be a wake-up call to step up research on tsunami triggers and preparedness, said several of the experts, some of whom have traveled to the Southeast Asian nation to investigate what happened.
“Indonesia has demonstrated to the rest of the world the huge variety of sources that have the potential to cause tsunamis. More research is needed to understand those less-expected events,” said Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at the University of Southampton.
Most tsunamis on record have been triggered by earthquakes. But this time it was an eruption of Anak Krakatau volcano that caused its crater to partially collapse into the sea at high tide, sending waves up to 5 metres (16 feet) high smashing into densely populated coastal areas on Java and Sumatra islands.
During the eruption, an estimated 180 million cubic metres, or around two-thirds of the less-than-100-year-old volcanic island, collapsed into the sea.
But the eruption didn’t rattle seismic monitors significantly, and the absence of seismic signals normally associated with tsunamis led Indonesia’s geophysics agency (BMKG) initially to tweet there was no tsunami.
Muhamad Sadly, head of geophysics at BMKG, later told Reuters its tidal monitors were not set up to trigger tsunami warnings from non-seismic events.
The head of Japan’s International Research Institute of Disaster, Fumihiko Imamura, told Reuters he did not believe Japan’s current warning system would have detected a tsunami like the one in the Sunda Strait.
“We still have some risks of this in Japan…because there’s 111 active volcanoes and low capacity to monitor eruptions generating a tsunami,” he said in Jakarta.
Scientists have long flagged the collapse of Anak Krakatau, around 155 km (100 miles) west of the capital, as a concern. A 2012 study published by the Geological Society of London deemed it a “tsunami hazard.”
Anak Krakatau has emerged from the Krakatoa volcano, which in 1883 erupted in one of the biggest explosions in recorded history, killing more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunamis and lowering the global surface temperature by one degree Celsius with its ash.
BROKEN WARNING SYSTEM
Some experts believe there was enough time for at least a partial detection of last week’s tsunami in the 24 minutes it took waves to hit land after the landslide on Anak Krakatau.
But a country-wide tsunami warning system of buoys connected to seabed sensors has been out of order since 2012 due to vandalism, neglect and a lack of public funds, authorities say.
“The lack of an early warning system is why Saturday’s tsunami was not detected,” said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho, adding that of 1,000 tsunami sirens needed across Indonesia, only 56 are in place.
“Signs that a tsunami was coming weren’t detected and so people did not have time to evacuate.”
President Joko Widodo this week ordered BMKG to purchase new early warning systems, and the agency later said it planned to install three tsunami buoys on the islands surrounding Anak Krakatau.
The cost of covering the country is estimated at 7 trillion rupiah ($481.10 million). That is roughly equivalent to Indonesia’s total disaster response budget of 7.19 trillion rupiah for 2018, according to Nugroho.
But other experts say even if this network had been working, averting disaster would have been difficult.
“The tsunami was very much a worst-case scenario for any hope of a clear tsunami warning: a lack of an obvious earthquake to trigger a warning, shallow water, rough seabed, and the close proximity to nearby coastlines,” said seismologist Hicks.
In the Philippines, Renato Solidum, undersecretary for disaster risk reduction, said eruptions from the country’s Taal volcano had caused tsunami waves before in the surrounding Taal Lake.
He told Reuters that what happened in Indonesia showed the need to “re-emphasize awareness and preparedness” regarding volcanic activity and its potential to trigger tsunamis in the Philippines.
The United States has also suffered several tsunamis caused by volcanic activity, including in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington, according to the national weather service.
In Indonesia earlier this year, a double quake-and-tsunami disaster killed over 2,000 people on Sulawesi island, while at least 500 died when an earthquake flattened much of the northern coastline of the holiday island of Lombok.
In a country where, according to government data, 62.4 percent of the population is at risk of being struck by earthquakes and 1.6 percent by tsunamis, attention is now focused on a continued lack of preparedness.
“Given the potential for disasters in the country, it’s time to have disaster education be part of the national curriculum,” Widodo told reporters after the latest tsunami.
For Ramdi Tualfredi, a high school teacher who survived last week’s waves, these improvements cannot come soon enough.
He told Reuters that people in his village of Cigondong on the west coast of Java and close to Krakatau had never received any safety drills or evacuation training.
“I’ve never received education on safety steps,” he said.
“The system…totally failed.”
($1 = 14,550 rupiah)
(Additional reporting by Wilda Asmarini, Tabita Diela, Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta, Linda Sieg and Tanaka Kiyoshi in Tokyo, and Neil Jerome Morales in Manila.; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
|CBS/AP|AIWA! NO!|Christmas celebrations traditionally filled with laughter and uplifting music were replaced by somber prayers for tsunami victims in an area slammed by waves that hit without warning, killing more than 420 people and leaving thousands homeless in disaster-prone Indonesia.
Pastor Markus Taekz said Tuesday his Rahmat Pentecostal Church in the hard-hit area of Carita didn’t celebrate with joyous songs. Instead, he said, only about 100 people showed up for the Christmas Eve service, usually attended by double that number. Many congregation members had already left the area for the capital, Jakarta, or other locations away from the disaster zone.
“This is an unusual situation because we have a very bad disaster that killed hundreds of our sisters and brothers in Banten,” he said, referring to the Javanese province. “So our celebration is full of grief.”
Church leaders called on Christians across Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, to pray for victims of the tsunami.
The death toll climbed to 429 on Tuesday with more than 1,400 people injured and at least 154 missing after the tsunami slammed into parts of western Java and southern Sumatra islands, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia Disaster Mitigation Agency.
He said more than 16,000 people were displaced. The Reuters news agency reported that thousands of residents had to move to higher ground, and a high-tide warning was extended to Wednesday.
Nugroho said there was an urgent need for heavy equipment in the remote Sumur subdistrict, a hard-to-reach area near Ujung Kulon National Park that experienced heavy damage.
Some villages there have been cut off due to damaged roads and bridges, making it difficult to supply aid and help people who may be injured or trapped.
Thick ash clouds continued to spew from Anak Krakatau, a volcanic island where a crater collapsed at high tide on Saturday sending tsunamis smashing into coastal areas on both sides of the Sunda Strait between the islands of Sumatra and Java.
At least 128 people remain missing. More than 1,400 people were injured, and thousands of residents had to move to higher ground, with a high-tide warning extended to Wednesday.
Rescuers used heavy machinery, sniffer dogs, and special cameras to detect and dig bodies out of mud and wreckage along a 100 km (60 mile) stretch of Java’s west coast and officials said the search area would be expanded further south.
“There are several locations that we previously thought were not affected,” said Yusuf Latif, spokesman for the national search and rescue agency.
“But now we are reaching more remote areas…and in fact there are many victims there,” he added.
The vast archipelago, which sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, has suffered its worst annual death toll from disasters in more than a decade.
Earthquakes flattened parts of the island of Lombok in July and August, and a double quake-and-tsunami killed more than 2,000 people on a remote part of Sulawesi island in September.
“At least 373 people have died, while 128 people are currently missing,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency, said on Monday evening.
It took just 24 minutes after the landslide for waves to hit land, and there was no early warning for those living on the coast.
“EVERYTHING IS DESTROYED”
Authorities and experts have warned of further high waves and advised residents to stay away from the shoreline.
“Since Anak Krakatau has been actively erupting for the past several months additional tsunamis cannot be excluded,” said Dr. Prof Hermann Fritz, from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States.
Rescue efforts were hampered by heavy rainfall and low visibility. Military and volunteer rescue teams used drones to assess the extent of the damage. One team used sniffer dogs to search for survivors at the beach club where a tsunami washed away an outdoor stage where the Indonesian rock band Seventeen were performing at a party for about 200 guests.
Destruction was visible along much of the coastline where waves of up to two metres (six feet) crushed vehicles, lifted chunks of metal, felled trees, wooden beams and household items and deposited them on roads and rice fields.
Nurjana, 20, ran uphill after the tsunami hit. Her beachside snack stall was washed away.
“I opened the door straight away and saved myself. I jumped over the wall,” she said. “Everything is destroyed.”
Out in the strait, Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatau) was still erupting, belching white smoke and ash into the sky.
The meteorology agency said that an area of about 64 hectares, or 90 soccer pitches, of the volcanic island had collapsed into the sea.
In 1883, the volcano then known as Krakatoa erupted in one of the biggest blasts in recorded history, killing more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunami, and lowering the global surface temperature by one degree Celsius with its ash. Anak Krakatau is the island that emerged from the area in 1927, and has been growing ever since.
Saturday’s high waves isolated hundreds of people on Sebesi island, about 12 km (seven miles) volcano.
“We are completely paralysed,” Syamsiar, a village secretary on the island, told Metro TV, calling for food and medicine.
President Joko Widodo, who is running for re-election in April, told disaster agencies to install early warning systems, but experts said that, unlike tsunami caused by earthquakes, little could have been done in time to alert people that waves were coming.
MEMORIES OF 2004
“Tsunamis from volcanic flank collapse are generated right at the coast and often close to populations,” said Eddie Dempsey, lecturer in structural geology at Britain’s University of Hull.
“The interval between the volcanic collapse and the arrival of the waves is minimal.”
The timing of the disaster over the Christmas season evoked memories of the Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake on Dec 26, 2004, which killed 226,000 people in 14 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.
Food, water, blankets, and medical aid has started arriving in the area.
District chief Atmadja Suhara said he was helping to care for 4,000 refugees, many of them homeless.
“Everybody is still in a state of panic,” he said. “We often have disasters, but not as bad as this.”