Indonesia’s indigenous languages hold the secrets of surviving disaster

Introducing hard-learned local wisdom into warning efforts could save thousands of lives. 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. The disaster cost more than 150,000 lives in Indonesia; only seven were lost on Simeulue.