Indonesian earthquake

On May 27, a powerful earthquake—centered about ten miles southeast of Yogyakarta—shook Java, Indonesia. It destroyed more than 135,000 houses, leaving 200,000 people homeless, and it killed at least 6234 people, injuring another 46,000. And volcanic activity on nearby Mount Merapi has tripled since the quake, sparking fears of an eruption.

The "ring of fire"

The continents rest on large plates of rock that are slowly moving around the surface of the Earth. Indonesia, a nation of more than 18,000 islands, experiences a lot of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions because it sits along the “ring of fire”—the Pacific Ocean’s zone of active volcanoes and tectonic faults.

Just south of Java, the Australian plate is moving north at two and a half inches each year. Where the Australia plate collides with the Sunda plate—which includes Java—the Australia plate slips under the Java plate in a process geologists call subduction.

Pressure builds up along the fault lines where the plates meet. When the rocks separating the plates suddenly give way, the ground shakes and buckles in what we call an earthquake. Volcanoes are formed when the subducted rock melts and returns to the surface as magma.

How strong was this earthquake?

The United States Geological Survey says the quake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale. This quake didn’t cause tsunamis like the big earthquake in December 2004. But it was shallow—only 6 miles underground—which made the shaking on the surface more intense than other quakes of the same magnitude. And the quake struck at 5:54 am local time, trapping many people in their homes.

How did this earthquake compare to others?

  • October 8, 2005: Pakistani Kashmir
    Magnitude 7.6, 30,000 killed
  • March 28, 2005: Sumatra, Indonesia
    Magnitude 8.7, up to 1,000 killed
  • December 26, 2004: Sumatra, Indonesia
    Magnitude 9.0, more than 176,000 people killed by earthquake and resulting tsunami
  • December 26, 2003: Bam, Iran
    Magnitude 6.5, more than 26,000 killed
  • May 21, 2003: northern Algeria
    Magnitude 6.8, nearly 2,300 killed

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:
Here's a slideshow of the devastation.
posted on Fri, 06/02/2006 - 1:11pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

And here's the Red Cross overview of the situation, with suggestions about what you can do to help.

posted on Fri, 06/02/2006 - 1:43pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

In the week since the quake, more than 1000 aftershocks have rattled the islands. Some scientists think that all the seismic activity may be contributing to the situation at Mount Merapi, where 11,000 have just been evacuated. Here's CNN's slideshow of the volcano.

posted on Tue, 06/06/2006 - 11:55am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

According to today's news feeds, volcanic activity on Mount Merapi is increasing as 18,000 evacuees wait anxiously in camps.

In Friday's first 6 hours, observers documented at least 11 clouds of gas, ash, and volcanic dust, and 85 lava flows.

posted on Fri, 06/09/2006 - 2:13pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

But some locals are returning to their homes, fearing damage to their houses or crops more than they fear the volcano.

posted on Fri, 06/09/2006 - 2:28pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Indonesian architect Eko Prawoto thinks that many earthquake victims could have survived had their houses been built of local bamboo and other flexible materials.

"Many people who died in this earthquake died because of the brick walls that fell on them."

But bamboo houses are often seen negatively, as "poor peoples' housing."

Prawoto is out to change all that, designing houses that incorporate brick and "new" design into wooden structures that are able to flex and absorb the shock of earthquakes.

posted on Mon, 06/26/2006 - 4:42pm
Richter's picture
Richter says:

Dear Sirs,

To see science earthquake prediction,

Please, open here: www.free.bol.bg/infostart/eqpweb.htm

or here: www.infoeq.it/forum

Thank you.

posted on Fri, 07/20/2007 - 2:59am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

people should be ready for earthquakes don't u think

posted on Fri, 10/26/2007 - 7:32am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Check details of Kashmir, Pakistan Earthquake devastation.


posted on Sun, 11/25/2007 - 8:04pm
Brittany_Todd's picture
Brittany_Todd says:

Wow...that really sucks!!
But if scientists are correct, and the year 2012 comes around, these kinds of occurrences are just going to get much worse! SCARY :(


posted on Wed, 04/22/2009 - 7:15pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw0jmvdh.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options