Old news of course to some of you, and probably unsurprising to those that know the Ring of Fire well but just found out that the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia have been hit by a Tsunami. I didn’t realize it was these small, almost unknown islands off the west coast of Sumatra, that had been hit and now I feel quite shocked
I visited the Mentawai group (on the northern-most Siberut island) just over ten years ago to spend time with the facinating Mentawai people and photograph them. I loved my time there, the forest and the people who scrape a living from it are amazing and endangered by Indonesia’s policies of religious intolerance and rapacious palm oil plantation development. For some of the saddest images of ruined tropical forests you’ll ever see look at this Greenpeace short film on plantation expansion in Sumatra, shot by Jeremy Sutton Hibbert.
Siberut island, is a UNESCO biosphere reserve, and emerged relatively unscathed from the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. It unfortunately appears they were not so lucky this time. I was shown immense kindness and generosity in the short time I was there and really hope the people I met; like this boy above smoking in his Uma (traditional stilted home) are okay. The reports (and here) mostly speak of the southern islands of Pagai, not that this makes it any better of course as a lot of people have lost their lives, but with no really big towns or serious infrastructure on Siberut to talk about it will probably be very difficult to get information on the well being of places and thus the people I care about.