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EXPLAINER: Why was Indonesia’s shallow quake so lethal?


JAKARTA, Indonesia — A 5.6 magnitude earthquake left greater than 160 dead and tons of injured as buildings crumbled and terrified residents ran for his or her lives on Indonesia’s essential island of Java.

Our bodies continued to be pulled from the particles on Tuesday morning within the hardest-hit metropolis of Cianjur, positioned within the nation’s most densely populated province of West Java and a few 217 kilometers (135 miles) south of the capital, Jakarta. Quite a few individuals are nonetheless lacking.

Whereas the magnitude would usually be anticipated to trigger mild harm to buildings and different constructions, specialists say proximity to fault strains, the vanity of the quake and insufficient infrastructure that can’t face up to earthquakes all contributed to the harm.

Right here’s a more in-depth have a look at the earthquake and a few the reason why it brought about a lot devastation:


The U.S. Geological Survey stated the quake late Monday afternoon measured 5.6 magnitude and struck at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).

Quakes of this dimension often don’t trigger widespread harm to well-built infrastructure. However the company points out, “There’s not one magnitude above which harm will happen. It is dependent upon different variables, reminiscent of the gap from the earthquake, what kind of soil you’re on, constructing development” and different components.

Dozens of buildings have been broken in Indonesia, together with Islamic boarding faculties, a hospital and different public amenities. Additionally broken have been roads and bridges, and elements of the area skilled energy blackouts.


Consultants stated proximity to fault strains, the depth of the temblor and buildings not being constructed utilizing earthquake-proof strategies have been components within the devastation.

“Though the earthquake was medium-sized, it (was) near the floor … and positioned inland, near the place individuals reside,” stated Gayatri Marliyani, an assistant geology professor at Universitas Gadjah Mada, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. “The power was nonetheless giant sufficient to trigger vital shaking that led to break.”

The worst-affected space is near a number of identified faults, stated Marliyani.

A fault is a spot with a protracted break within the rock that types the floor of the earth. When an earthquake happens on certainly one of these faults, the rock on one aspect of the fault slips with respect to the opposite.

“The realm in all probability has essentially the most inland faults in comparison with the opposite elements of Java,” stated Marliyani.

She added that whereas some well-known faults are within the space, there are numerous different energetic faults that aren’t properly studied.

Many buildings within the area are additionally not constructed with quake-proof designs, which additional contributed to the harm, stated Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, an earthquake geology skilled on the Indonesian Institute of Sciences Geotechnology Analysis Heart.

“This makes a quake of this dimension and depth much more damaging,” he stated.


The nation of greater than 270 million individuals is often struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis due to its location on the arc of volcanoes and fault strains within the Pacific Basin generally known as the “Ring of Hearth.” The realm spans some 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles) and is the place a majority of the world’s earthquakes happen.

A lot of Indonesia’s earthquakes are minor and trigger little to no harm. However there have additionally been lethal earthquakes.

In February, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed at the least 25 individuals and injured greater than 460 in West Sumatra province. In January 2021, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed greater than 100 individuals and injured almost 6,500 in West Sulawesi province.

A strong Indian Ocean quake and tsunami in 2004 killed 230,000 individuals in a dozen nations, most of them in Indonesia.

The Related Press Well being and Science Division receives assist from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Division of Science Schooling. The AP is solely answerable for all content material.

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