It's nice to see you again after a short break. I wanted to write a post today to pass along my best wishes to all the people in Indonesia in the wake of two catastrophic events, one imminent and the other potential. As we've learned from this blog, Indonesia is a very seismically active place because it sits on a subduction zone. The incredible forces within the Earth are manifested in earthquakes and volcanoes that frequently strike the archipelago.
Earlier this week an earthquake of magnitude 7.7 struck about 150 miles off the coast of Padang near the Mentawai islands. You may recall my mentioning both of these areas in previous posts. You may also recall that the city of Padang was struck by a large earthquake just over a year ago that did tremendous damage to the city. The most recent earthquake is a product of the subduction zone we've learned about. Many of these earthquakes are off-shore under the ocean, and there is always the possibility that a tsunami will be generated. Sunday's earthquake created a 3-meter (about 10 feet) tsunami. According to most recent reports, the death toll from the tsunami stands at 113 people. Hundreds of people are homeless as the tsunami struck low-lying fishing communities. Relief efforts are complicated because the Mentawai islands are somewhat isolated and hard to access. For up-to-date information in Indonesian check the Indonesian governments bureau of meteorology, climatology, and geophysics here. For up-to-date information in English check the USGS's site here.
At the same time, Gunung Merapi, Indonesia's most active volcano, is erupting. I also told you about Mt. Merapi in previous posts; it is the volcano close to Jogjakarta on the island of Java. The volcano has been expelling clouds of gas and ash every 5-10 minutes, sending deadly materials down its slopes. 13 people have been killed already. Indonesian officials have already said that this eruption is worse than the most recent eruption (2006), which killed 2 people. Fortunately, it is easier (though not easy) to predict volcanic eruptions than earthquakes, and Indonesian geologists have been warning about the eruption for a couple of weeks. Signs include inflated lava domes and landslides. When some volcanoes are getting ready to erupt, they actually swell up a little bit as they become filled with magma. Sometimes the pressure that builds up during this process is released slowly, but other times it causes an explosion, which can be devastating.
You can find information about how to help victims of these disasters at the blog linked to here. This site also features links to non-governmental organizations active in Indonesia. These organizations focus on relief and reconstruction. Let's all send our thoughts and prayers to the people that are affected by these events.
Update Oct 28: Friends at the US-Indonesia Society (www.usindo.org) suggest making donations to the following: Indonesian Red Cross: BCA Account No. 0353112233; Account name: Palang Merah