Indonesia is as well known for its beauty as its deadly and extreme weather. On October 24, 2010, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck right off the coast of the island nation. This earthquake triggered a tsunami that is currently estimated to have killed up to 173 people. It is unknown what level of destruction was inflicted. An Indonesian volcano, Mount Merapi, has erputed. It has yet to be seen if the increased volcanic activity and the earthquake are related.
Indonesia is located right on the “ring of fire”, a Pacific Ocean phenomenon around one of the main tectonic plates of the Earth. This tectonic plate shifts and hits against other, adjacent, tectonic plates causing fissures or rises in the Earth’s crust. These movements are felt above ground as earthquakes. If there is enough movement, these earthquakes can trigger volcano eruptions or tsunamis. Often there is rumbling, ash spewing or small lava flows before a full volcanic eruption and the notice gives people who live nearby a chance to evacuate. However, with a tsunami, the only notice may be the earthquake itself and a sudden rush of water away from the coastlines.
Tsunamis are very dangerous. A major one struck the Indian Ocean islands on December 26, 2004. In this case, the 9.3 magnitude earthquake centered in nearly the same location as the earthquake on October 24, 2010. The tsunami took two hours to hit the coastal regions of the surrounding countries but there was no warning to the inhabitants. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand were the hardest hit countries and had a combine death toll topping an estimated 229,000 people. This was not the first time an earthquake triggered a massive natural disaster that caused extensive and widespread damage in the ring of fire.
In 1556, an earthquake near the ring of fire triggered landslides that killed over 800,000 people. The earthquake was an estimate 8.0 magnitude on the modern scale, however during this time many people lived in poorly constructed buildings and artificial caves. The artificial caves were decimated in the ensuing landslides. Those that survived the earthquake were likely trapped by the landslides.
A major earthquake in Japan contributed to a major natural disaster that included a tsunami, massive firestorms and landslides. In 1923, Kanto, Japan, was hit with an estimated 8.2 magnitude earthquake. This earthquake caused building to be destroyed and water lines severed. Fires developed from the stoves and gas lights that were on at the time. These fires combined in places and created firestorms that were difficult to fight due to the rescue efforts and lack of water. A tsunami developed and stuck the coast line. The water of the tsunami combine with the magnitude of the earthquake caused massive landslides. The 1923 earthquake created the perfect storm that destroyed much of the Eastern Central part of Japan.
The ring of fire region is a beautiful but deadly part of the world. While modern science can do little to stop these deadly natural disasters from occurring, the early warning technology and building construction have improved to provide a much safer environment for inhabitants of this region of the world.
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Sara Schonhardt “Deadly Tsunami Hits Islands in Western Indonesia”, VOANews.com
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Maggie McKee “Power of Tsunami Earthquake Heavily Underestimated”, New Scientist.
George Pararas-Carayannis “Indian Ocean Tsunami”, Disaster Pages.
“Shaanxi Earthquake 1556”, Armageddon Online.
“The Great Kanto Earthquake and Japanese Prints”, Artelino.