January 18, 2010

Earthquake, Tsunami Possible In Indonesia

Indonesia may be looking at a catastrophe as a huge tsunami-generating earthquake is possibly expected to hit the city of Padang and the island of Sumatra.

A warning was issued by a scientist who miraculously predicted the quake that hit Sumatra in 2005. The warning was issued in a letter to the journal Nature Geoscience.

The peril comes from a relentless buildup of pressure over the last two centuries on a section of the Sunda Trench, one of the world's most notorious earthquake zones, which runs parallel to the western Sumatra coast, they said.

Even though the letter gave no time frame in which this quake would hit, it bluntly warns the people of Padang that there is immediate danger.

"The threat from such an event is clear and the need for urgent mitigating action remains extremely high," John McCloskey wrote.

McCloskey, the scientist who has apparently proven that such disastrous events can be predicted, urged that the authorities in the Sunda Trench area should be aware and prepare for what he said was a quake of 8.5 magnitude with the capacity to generate a tsunami that would soon hit the region.

Although knowledge of where earthquakes strike is extensive, the ability to be able to predict the time it will hit remains elusive.

But on March 28, 2005, a quake measuring 8.6 erupted at Simeulue island, generating a three-meter (10-feet) tsunami, thus backing the scientist's premonition.

"It is imperative that the Indonesian authorities, with the assistance of the international community and non-governmental organizations, ensure that they complete the relief effort and earthquake-resistant reconstruction following this earthquake, and work with the people in Padang to help prepare them for the next one," he says.

In the letter to Nature Geoscience, his team explained their calculations for the vulnerable Mentawai segment in the aftermath of a 7.6-magnitude quake that occurred 60 kilometers (37 miles) near Padang on September 30 last year, killing more than 1,000 people.

Despite its size, this event did not ease the pressure on the Mentawai section, especially under the island of Siberut. Stresses there have been accumulating since an 8.7-magnitude quake in 1797 that caused fault slippage of 10 meters (32.5 feet) and unleashed a tsunami that inundated Padang and neighboring areas.

Under Siberut, the largest of the Mentawai islands, "the megathrust strain-energy budget remains substantially unchanged" after the 2009 quake, McCloskey's team said.


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