6/4/2000 Sumatra Earthquake

Updated 6/11/2000

The city of Bengkulu on the Indonesian island of Sumatra was struck by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 at 16:28 GMT (23:28 Local time) 6/4/00. The death toll has reached 120 one week after the quake, as rescuers continue to dig through the rubble of hundreds of collapsed buildings. In some areas as many as 80% of the houses will have to be rebuilt. The quake's epicenter was 60 miles southwest of Bengkulu, in the Indian Ocean. The affected area is about halfway between Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, and Singapore. The quake was felt strongly in both of these cities, about 400 miles from the epicenter, sending people running into the streets in their pajamas after being awakened by violently swaying highrises. There was no reported damage, however, that far from the epicenter.

Relief supplies first arrived in two Indonesian Navy ships. The Bengkulu airport was closed with extensive damage and many roads are blocked. Communications have also been down throughout the affected area. Doctors are treating patients outdoors under plastic canopies due to concern about the safety of hospitals. One hospital roof collapsed. Medical supplies and blood are running low, although relief supplies are now reaching the area. Tens of thousands of people have been spending the night out of doors, some in tent cities, as the area has been rocked by numerous strong aftershocks, several over 6 on the Richter Scale. People are afraid of being caught in buildings that may collapse in future aftershocks. The government is coming under criticism for not responding quicker. The Indonesian government has appealed for international aid and pledged help to quake victims. Help in building temporary shelter has been promised but the government may not have the resources to build permanent housing.

The quake occurred at a depth of 21 miles. This is unusually shallow for a subduction earthquake. Sumatra is located at the border of the Australian plate, which extends undr the Indian Ocean, and the Eurasian plate. The Australian plate, as it is pushed under the Eurasian plate is capable of causing very strong earthquakes as well as extensive volcanic activity. The Indonesian Archipeligo is located at the confluence of the Australian, Eurasian, Phillipines and Pacific Plates. It is one of the most seismically and volcanically active areas of the world. (See the Plate Tectonics page for more information on these processes.)

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