The recent and on-going devastation that began with an earthquake which caused a tsunami, followed by a volcanic eruption, that hit Palu, Sulawesi, Indonesia marks a truly tragic period with many innocent lives lost.

The Indonesian archipelago sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where a series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, volcanic belts, and tectonic plate movements, make the region extremely prone to earthquakes and tsunamis as the plates collide, causing eruptions and earthquakes.


Photo courtesy of SkyNews

Unfortunately on 28th September at around 3pm local time, an initial earthquake of 6.1 magnitude struck the coast of Central Sulawesi near Toa Toa beach, 55km north of Palu. A more serious 7.4 magnitude quake followed striking further north, triggering a tsunami just after 6pm which has brought about the untold damage, destruction and the loss of life.


Video courtesy of Guardian News

When we think about heroes, we think of someone with superpowers, who dons a cape and flies around to save the world. But Anthonius Gunawan Agung – a young air traffic controller (ATC) on duty at the Mutiara SIS Al-Jufrie airport, did not have time to don a cape or even muster up the courage to be a super hero!

All he could think of was to ensure that the last flight out from the airport safely took off before the earthquake laid waste to the runway. He became a hero while defending and ensuring the safety of others while putting his own life at imminent risk. This selfless act was extraordinary, super human and in the world’s eyes heroic beyond comparison.

Agung was the air traffic controller (ATC) on duty with AirNav Indonesia’s Palu branch and as the air traffic control tower began to sway and cracks appeared on the walls from the 6.1 magnitude tremor, all of Agung’s colleagues who were not handling aircrafts evacuated the building. Except for him.

Instead, the young 21-year old ATC bravely remained at his post and carried out his final duty to ensure the last passenger jet carrying hundreds of passengers on Batik Air was safely airborne.

As the plane took off, the top floor of the four-storey ATC tower collapsed completely obstructing any viable escape route. In a desperate bid to flee from the trembling and crumbling tower, Agung made the decision to jump from the fourth floor. Jumping from that great of a height resulted in him breaking his leg and suffering serious internal injuries.

Unfortunately, Agung succumbed to his injuries and died at the local hospital while waiting for a rescue helicopter to transfer him to another better equipped hospital for specialty care.

Agung displayed true altruism by sacrificing his life to save the lives of hundreds on that plane, making him a genuine hero. A school will be named in honour of the hero that is Agung. AirNav posthumously raised his rank by two levels as a sign of appreciation for his extraordinary dedication and sacrifice. Agung will forever be a household name as the epitome of bravery and selflessness.

Palu is now slowly recovering from this traumatic episode. Schools and businesses are reopening and the locals are fighting to rebuild their lives. The National Agency for Disaster Management’s priority is to continue the search and rescue efforts. They are also working hard to reach areas where distribution of aid remains limited due to the lack of fuel and other resources.


Photo courtesy of AFP

We can do our part in helping the victims rebuild their lives by donating generously to organisations such as Mercy Relief and the Singapore Red Cross, who are assisting and providing necessary support for those affected by this disaster.

We – at Priority Consultants extend our heartfelt sympathy to the victims and stand in solidarity with the survivors of this traumatic event. We hope and pray that the people of Palu will stay resilient in rebuilding their lives following this disaster.