Indonesia Quake: Java 'Always a Quake Risk'

Villagers stand near the ruins of their house in Tasikmalaya

Wednesday’s quake that left at least 33 people dead and more than 3,500 buildings damaged in West Java was a reminder that such powerful quakes are always a danger for the island and cannot be ignored, experts warned. “There is always the potential to be affected by huge quakes like the one today,” said Fauzi, the head of the Earthquake and Tsunami division at the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG), adding that the capital was at risk because, though not sitting on a fault line, it was relatively near the volatile tectonic fault zone off Java’s south coast. The quake, measured at 7.0 magnitude by the BMG, hit off the southern Java coast near the Tasikmalaya district at 2:55 p.m. and lasted for about a minute and a half, with the temblor felt across the island. Fauzi said that although the quake had been large enough to cause tsunamis, only small waves had occurred along the southern coast of West Java, including on the tourist beaches of Pangandaran, Pelabuhanratu, and Pameungpeuk. “There was a one-meter tsunami in Pameungpeuk,” Fauzi said, “the quake also triggered 10-centimeter and 15-centimeter waves in Pangandaran and Pelabuhanratu.” The head of the Pelabuhanratu Fishery Port, Arief Rahman, said 200 fishermen who were at sea when the quake hit were reportedly undisturbed. Fauzi said the quake, the result of tectonic pressure caused by the Indo-Australian and Eurasian plates rubbing up against each other, was similar to a 6.1 magnitude temblor in West Sumatra in August, which shook the coast of Siberut and Mentawai islands. Jakarta, Fauzi said, would always be one of the cities on Java vulnerable to earthquakes. “The closest fault line near Jakarta is near Sukabumi,” he said, adding that the ocean off the southern Java coast was one of the most earthquake prone areas in the country along with the western coast of Sumatra. Earlier in the day, a magnitude-5.3 earthquake shook Mentawai islands but left no damage. Wednesday’s earthquake is the largest since the 7.2-magnitude temblor that shook southern Java in July 2006, triggering a deadly tsunami and killing 596 people and displacing 74,000. The death toll from Wednesday’s quake is expected to rise. At least 11 people were killed in Rawa Hideung, South Cianjur, after houses were buried in a landslide, while 4 were killed in nearby Tasikmalaya, 4 in Garut, 1 in Sukabumi, and 6 each in Bandung and Banjar. A man died of a heart attack in Jakarta because of the quake. Rustam Pakaya from the Health Ministry’s Crisis Center also said that some 40 others remained missing in Cianjur. The West Java disaster coordinating center said that at least 3,586 buildings had been damaged by the temblor, 2,895 of them severely. State electricity utility company PT PLN said five cities in West Java, including the provincial capital Bandung, suffered power disruptions. Murtaqi Syamsudin, PLN’s operations director for Java, Madura and Bali, said operations in a geothermal power plant in Salak, West Java, were disrupted, affecting power supplies in the Java and Bali areas. In the capital, tens of thousands of panicked Jakartans rushed out of high-rise buildings. Many headed home, jamming traffic in many of the city’s usual choke points, while others stayed on the streets until the situation had calmed.

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