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If You Can’t Get Away from a Tsunami, Get Above It

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

The city of Padang, in the Indonesian province of West Sumatra, faces an urgent challenge: How to save lives in a fast-growing, tsunami-prone city built at sea level, far from high ground. Recent experience in Padang with ordinary inland evacuations to safe ground have led to traffic jams and have proved too slow to be effective for a large portion of the population.

If a tsunami were to occur today in Padang, as many as 100,000 people might perish. In collaboration with Indonesian, Japanese and Stanford University partners, we envision a different solution for Padang: Several 5-10-meter-high “hills” to be built within the city that would allow people to walk to safety above a tsunami. We call such a hill a “Tsunami Evacuation Raised Earth Park,” or TEREP.

Building Higher Ground Swiss Reinsurance Company (Swiss Re) is funding a new GeoHazards International project to design a prototype vertical tsunami evacuation structure for Padang. Our team will work closely with Indonesian government officials, academics and practicing engineers.

Andi Syukri and Veronica Cedillos are coordinating the project.

Our Long-Range Goals If all goes well, Indonesian contractors will start construction. Once residents have strolled over the prototype and explored the elevated gardens, we hope that the larger Padang community will embrace and copy this solution. One day, TEREPs might be built throughout Padang, and perhaps in other Indonesian coastal cities, so that all residents could escape to higher ground within a short distance of their homes. I don’t know of a better way to save 100,000 lives.


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