Photo/IllutrationA man stands among debris of a mosque on Oct. 4 in Palu on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi that was hit by a magnitude-7.5 earthquake and tsunami on Sept. 28. (The Asahi Shimbun)

In regions that have traditionally suffered earthquake and tsunami damage, there are folk traditions that teach people how to survive.

"Tsunami tendenko," a maxim handed down through generations in Japan's Sanriku region, means that everyone must focus on their own survival by believing that all their loved ones have managed to flee.

On the small Indonesian island of Simeulue, a traditional cautionary song goes to this effect: "If the tide goes out after an earthquake, a tsunami will follow. You must flee at once to higher ground."

In 1907, the island was jolted by an earthquake that triggered a tsunami. Many people were killed foraging for fish in the ebbing tide.

The islanders are said to still sing this song today, sitting in a circle and beating drums, lest they forget.

Indonesia continues to be plagued by seismic upheavals. This past summer, a mega-quake killed more than 550 people on Lombok Island. And a week ago, a magnitude-7.5 temblor struck central Sulawesi Island, claiming upward of 1,500 lives.

Reportedly, the tsunami that followed the jolt reached a maximum height of 6 meters. There are media accounts of bodies lining the streets and coasts, and the delivery of relief supplies being held up by destroyed and impassable roads.

I also understand that false rumors are spreading, such as that a dam had burst.

There are many similarities between Japan and Indonesia. Both are island nations, have active volcanoes, and are earthquake-prone.

Indonesia has a tsunami alarm system, developed with Japanese technological cooperation. But the system reportedly failed to function properly this time, which pains me.

Further mutual support is necessary to prepare for future natural disasters.

In Hokkaido, which suffered severe earthquake damage one month ago, was struck again on Oct. 5 by a strong aftershock that registered lower 5 on the Japanese seismic scale of 7.

The usually gentle Mother Earth can suddenly turn ferocious. Both Japan and Indonesia are destined to live with this reality.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 6

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.