Critical Data About Indonesia Tsunami Missing As US Geological Survey Closed Amid Government Shutdown

There is no clear indication of when the shutdown could end.

Some critical data about the deadly tsunami that struck Indonesia is missing, as the U.S. Geological Survey remained shuttered during the extended federal government shutdown.

Late on Saturday, an underwater volcano triggered a tsunami that struck the Indonesian coast without warning, killing at least 222 people and injuring more than 800 others. As the Huffington Post noted, the U.S. Geological Survey normally monitors seismic events and releases data to the public, but the agency has been dormant during the shutdown and posted a notice on its website that it would not be updating data.

“Due to a lapse in appropriations, the majority of USGS websites may not be up to date and may not reflect current conditions,” the note reads. “Websites displaying real-time data, such as Earthquake and Water and information needed for public health and safety will be updated with limited support.”

A government contingency plan allows for a skeleton crew of 75 employees to retain some of the critical functions of the U.S. Geological Survey. The agency normally has more than 8,000 staffers who monitor seismic events across the globe.

Without data normally released by the U.S. Geological Survey, the public is missing some key facts like the exact size of the activity that caused the tsunami or the risk for further seismic activity. As volcanologist Robin George Andrews told the Huffington Post, the shuttered agency leaves critical holes in coverage of the tragedy.

“This is problematic for journalists like myself, but also it’s a shame they can’t help out by providing any commentary or advice to the general public too,” Andrews said.

It also means that officials in Indonesia lack the support the U.S. Geological Survey would provide about the seismic event.

The U.S. federal government shut down on Saturday after Donald Trump rejected a bipartisan deal that would have temporarily funded the government. After giving signals that he would sign the measure, Trump abruptly changed course and demanded that the measure include funding for his border wall. The House of Representatives scrambled to pass a bill that did provide funding for the wall, but Democrats in the Senate have refused to offer any border wall funding.

It is not clear how much longer the government shutdown could extend, but it will last at least through the holiday. The Senate has adjourned for Christmas and will not be back until December 27, though Donald Trump’s budget director has indicated that the shutdown could go on through January.

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