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Languages for survival


Last Updated: 17 Oct 2018

 

Indonesia’s Indigenous Languages Hold the Secrets of Surviving Disaster

JAKARTA, Indonesia—As the 2004 Indonesian tsunami bore down on the island of Simeulue , near West Aceh, the cries of “Smong! Smong!,” the local word for a tidal wave, rang from the coastline to the hills as soon as the shaking that preceded the disaster had finished. As they heard it, the islanders, mostly from the Nias people, began heading to the mountains, crying out “Smong!” in turn as news spread. The disaster cost more than 150,000 lives in Indonesia; only seven were lost on Simeulue —about a seventh, proportional to population, of the losses in other Indonesian areas.