Stories tagged Merapi

11,000 people have been evacuated from the area surrounding Mount Merapi, as lava and superheated gas poured from the volcano. (This is the same area affected by last week's major earthquake.) Merapi is one of the world's most active and unpredictable volcanos, and some scientists have suggested that the earthquake contributed to this latest round of volcanic activity.

Jun
02
2006

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