Emergency Messages During Government Shutdown

A tsunami hit the coastal areas around the Sunda Strait in Indonesia (between the islands of Java and Sumatra) on December 22, 2018. It affected the Pandeglang, South Lampung, and Serang districts (as well as the resort area of Anyer). As of this writing, the tsunami death toll is now 373, with 128 missing and 1,459 injured.

The location of the tsunami is about 108 kilometers from the capital city of Jakarta. The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta (with constituent posts in Surabaya, Medan, and a Consular Agency in Bali) issued a Message to U.S. Citizens: U.S. Embassy Jakarta – Tsunami on the West Coast of Banten and Lampung on Sun, 23 Dec 2018.

The Embassy Alert to U.S. citizens provides the following actions to take and contact information for those requiring assistance:

Actions to Take:

  • Carefully consider travel plans and avoid nonessential travel to tsunami affected areas.
  • Review the Travel Advisory for Indonesia
  • Review information about what to do in the event of a tsunami.
  • Notify friends and family of your well-being.
  • Review information from the Government of Indonesia’s agency for disaster managementhere (Indonesian language only) and here.
  • For regular updates, follow the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya on Twitter and Facebook and the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta at Twitter and Facebook.

Assistance:  

The Alert message is currently on travel.state.gov and the embassy’s website, but it is not pushed on to social media due to the government shutdown. The State Department’s deputy spox says that they “are not aware of any U.S. citizens directly affected, but stand ready to assist as needed.”

The Alert message suggests that for regular updates people should “follow the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya on Twitter and Facebook and the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta at Twitter and Facebook.” But those feed are no longer updated regularly due to the lapse in appropriation.

Our Foreign Service posts in Jakarta say “visit @StateDept for updates.” We note of only two official tweets to-date: one tweet from @TravelGov calling the tsunami a “Weather Alert” (though tsunami can be caused by weather when the atmospheric pressure changes very rapidly, this tsunami is believed to have been triggered by an underwater landslide caused by the eruption of the nearby Anak Krakatau volcano), and one tweet from the State Department through the deputy spox. While the multiple deaths and injuries in the Indonesia tsunami did not appear to include American citizens, disasters and calamities (besides the one unfolding in Washington, D.C.) could happen anytime.

See US Embassy Jakarta’s tweet:

One of the last few tweets sent by US Consulate Surabaya was about the tsunami before it announced that its Twitter feed will not be updated due to the lapse in appropriation.

The former strategic planner for the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R) cited a policy cable from 2013, adopted formally as guidance in the Foreign Affairs Handbook which explicitly states that overseas missions using social media “should continue to do so in a crisis.” https://fam.state.gov/FAM/10FAH01/10FAH010060.html …. He rightfully noted that we are at an era when gov’t communication via social media is expected, particularly from a US embassy during a crisis affecting its host country. We agree that the use of social media to facilitate emergency communications with the public must be a prime consideration, rather than an afterthought. Posts’s feeds were the first place we looked up when we saw the tsunami alert online. We are sure we’re not the only one looking for information.

Just as we were about to post this, Reuters is reporting that Italy’s Mount Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano, erupted on December 24, and causing the closure of Catania airport on Sicily’s eastern coast. The social media accounts of US Embassy in Rome and its constituent posts in Florence and Naples have not been updated since the government shutdown took effect on December 22. Consulate Milan appears to be updating with holiday tweets as of nine hours ago. There does not appear to be any update from @StateDept concerning the Etna eruption.

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Photo of the Day: Secretary Kerry Escapes Bonkerstown, Arrives in Indonesia for APEC

— By Domani Spero

Secretary Kerry is on foreign travel to Tokyo, Japan, Bali, Indonesia; Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Manila, Philippines from October 1-12, 2013.  In Tokyo on October 2-3, Secretary Kerry joined Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel for the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (SCC) meeting.  On October 4, Secretary Kerry arrived in Bali, Indonesia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial Meeting (AMM) and other APEC-related meetings.  He is accompanied by Assistant Secretary Danny Russel, Spokesperson Jennifer Psaki, NSS Director for Japan and Asian Economic Affairs Robert Koepcke and Vice Admiral Kurt Tidd, JCS. After Bali, Secretary Kerry is scheduled to proceed to Malaysia from October 10-11 and the Philippines from October 11-12.

Photo via state.gov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is greeted by Embassy Jakarta’s Charge d’Affaires Kristen Bauer upon arriving in Bali, Indonesia, on October 4, 2013, to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial Meeting. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
Photo via state.gov

Ambassador Scot Marciel departed post on July 18. The Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy to Indonesia, Kristen Bauer is currently the Chargé d’Affaires a.i. She will serve in this capacity as the acting Ambassador until the arrival of  Ambassador-designate Joseph Y. Yun as the next Ambassador to Malaysia.  ambasador-designate, Ambassador Robert Blake, Jr. to Jakarta. (apologies, thanks P!).

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More Protests Expected, Post Closures: Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, HK, Lebanon, Pakistan

We’re trying to keep up with the protests breaking out across the globe over the anti-Islam movie. Here is what we know based on publicly available information:

Malaysia:   US Embassy Kuala Lumpur informs U.S. citizens of planned demonstrations on Friday, September 21, 2012. It says the embassy is not aware of specific threats to U.S. citizens in Malaysia at this time but will close to the public on mid-day tomorrow.

The U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has been informed by the Royal Malaysian Police that demonstrations are scheduled to take place in the afternoon on  Friday, September 21, 2012 at the following locations:   on Jalan Tun Razak in the vicinity of the Embassy;  in front of the Tabung Haji Mosque and proceed by foot to the vicinity of the Embassy; in the vicinity of Jamek Kampung Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, approximately 3 kilometers north of the U.S. Embassy on Jalan Raja Abdullah;  at the  Taman Perling Mosque in Johor Bahru, Johor state;  and at all district mosques in Sabah state.  U.S. citizens are advised to avoid all areas noted above in Kuala Lumpur on Friday afternoon.
From noon until late afternoon on Friday vehicular and foot traffic in the area around the U.S. Embassy will be disrupted.  Given the uncertainty inherent in this situation, the Embassy will close to the public at 11 a.m.   Visa and American Citizens Services appointments scheduled for the afternoon of September 21 will be rescheduled for later dates.  In the event of an emergency, U.S. citizens may call (03) 2168-5000 at any time.   The Embassy plans to re-open for normal business on Monday, September 24.

Indonesia: US Embassy Jakarta informs U.S. citizens of the continuing closure of APP Medan, and closure of US Embassy Jakarta and USCG Surabaya on September 21, 2012:

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, the American Presence Post in Medan, the U.S. Consular Agency in Bali, and the U.S. Mission to ASEAN will be closed tomorrow, Friday, September 21 because of the potential for significant demonstrations that might be held in front of these facilities.  The American Presence Post in Medan continues to be closed today, September 20. We apologize for any inconvenience. We advise, as always, that people should avoid large crowds and other gatherings that might turn violent. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates, if needed.

Australia: US Consulate General Sydney informs U.S. citizens of possible new protests in Sydney and Melbourne on September 22, and September 23.

Sydney law enforcement authorities have advised of possible anti-American demonstrations in Sydney for Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23.   U.S. citizens should avoid Sydney’s Hyde Park and its perimeter area and Martin Place on both Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23.  Previous demonstrations in Sydney on September 15, 2012 occurred in Martin Place and Hyde Park and turned violent.

Melbourne law enforcement authorities have also advised of possible anti-American protests in downtown Melbourne on Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23.  Should they occur, U.S. citizens should avoid the immediate demonstration areas.

Nepal: US Embassy Kathmandu informs U.S. citizens of a planned demonstration on September 21.

A demonstration is planned for Friday, September 21 in the area of Ratna Park in Kathmandu in the early afternoon (1 pm or sometime thereafter).  (Ratna Park is located in central Kathmandu, approximately one mile south of Thamel, an area popular with backpackers and other tourists, and about a half mile east of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, another popular tourist destination.)  Ratna Park is a major transit point for local public transportation buses, so a demonstration in the area could cause traffic disruption.

Japan: US Embassy Tokyo notifies U.S. citizens of planned demonstrations on September 21.

The Embassy has been advised that there will be a demonstration starting in the Shibuya area and arriving at the U.S. Embassy at approximately 4:00PM on Friday, September 21. The Government of Japan has designated the Japan Tobacco (JT) building as the designated location near the U.S. Embassy for these demonstrations to gather legally and peacefully.

China: US Consulate General Hong Kong informs US citizens in Hong Kong of planned demonstration this weekend:

The U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong informs U.S. citizens that local Muslim leaders have announced plans for peaceful demonstrations to take place in Chater Garden in Central in the early afternoon of Sunday, September 23. Consulate General personnel have been instructed to avoid the immediate area around Chater Garden on Sunday, September 23, and we advise you to avoid the area also.

Pakistan: The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and Consulates in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar will be closed tomorrow (Friday, September 21). The Government of Pakistan yesterday officially declared September 21 a Love for Muhammad Day, a national holiday (see more below).

Meanwhile, the State Department has issued updated Travel Warnings for both Lebanon and Pakistan:

Travel Warning Lebanon: September 17, 2012

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of current safety and security concerns. U.S. citizens living and working in Lebanon should understand that they accept risks in remaining and should carefully consider those risks. This supersedes the Travel Warning issued on May 8, 2012, to emphasize information on security, kidnappings, and an upsurge in violence in Lebanon and the region.
[…]
The Fulbright and the English Language Fellow programs that provided grants to American scholars to live and work in Lebanon during the academic year have been suspended in country because of the deteriorating security situation and the increased possibility of attacks against U.S. citizens in Lebanon.

Travel Warning Pakistan | September 19, 2012

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan.
[…]
Movements by U.S. government personnel assigned to the Consulates General are severely restricted. U.S. officials in Islamabad are instructed to limit the frequency of travel and minimize the duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, and other locations. Only a limited number of official visitors are placed in hotels, and for limited stays.  Depending on ongoing security assessments, the U.S. Mission sometimes places areas such as hotels, markets, and restaurants off limits to official personnel.
[…]
There have been several terrorist attacks in the past few years, targeting civilians and security personnel. On September 3, 2012, unidentified terrorists attacked a U.S. government vehicle convoy in Peshawar, injuring U.S. and Pakistani personnel.  On April 24, 2012, an explosion at the Lahore Railway Station killed three people and injured at least 30.  On April 5, 2012, a suicide bomber attacked a police vehicle in the Malir Area of Karachi, not far from the airport, causing a number of deaths. On November 16, 2011, a vehicle driven by suicide bombers exploded in the Defense Area of Karachi, killing the three bombers and two police officers. On May 20, 2011, a U.S. Consulate General vehicle in Peshawar was attacked, killing one person and injuring a dozen, including two U.S. employees of the Mission. On April 5, 2010, terrorists carried out a complex attack on U.S. Consulate General Peshawar, with several Pakistani security and military personnel killed or wounded.  On February 3, 2010, ten persons, including three U.S. military personnel, were killed and 70 injured in a suicide bombing at a new girls’ school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

A side note here.  Pakistani news report that the Federal Cabinet meeting on Wednesday has decided “to observe September 21 as ‘Ishq-e-Rasool (pbuh)’ day to express reverence for Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and register the government’s protest against the recently released anti-Islam film in the US.” The day has been declared a national holiday.

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, addressing the Cabinet meeting, was quoted as saying: “At this moment, I call upon the people of Pakistan to register their protests peacefully but to observe restraints and not to damage their own property.”

On Radio Pakistan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has reportedly said that special security arrangements will be made on Friday on the occasion of “Day of Ishq-e-Rasool and that no one will be allowed to take the law into his own hands and damage private or public properties during the protests.