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Thursday, September 13, 2007

When plates collide

I arrived home from the masjid after the terawih prayers last night only to be greeted with news of an earthquake that hit the west of Sumatera. None of us in our area noticed the tremor that occurred around 7.15 yesterday evening. Only those living in high-rise buildings felt the tremor which measured at 8.4 on the Richter scale. And at around 7.50 this morning, another earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale hit western Indonesia.

My prayer goes to the victims of the earthquake in Indonesia. One of the worst hit places this time is Padang in the province of West Sumatera. I was in Padang a few years back. It is a coastal city rich in history, culture and intellectual heritage. One of Nusantara's greatest scholars came from this region: Allahyarham Professor Hamka, someone whose thoughts and ideas I greatly admire.

I did geology in my first two years of university. One of the first things that we learnt in geology was on the theory of plate tectonics. When I read about the news of the earthquake, I suddenly remembered this interesting theory. A country like Indonesia is definitely prone to earthquakes. This is because most of the Indonesian islands are situated on the very edge of a tectonic plate known as the Eurasian Plate which is colliding with another tectonic plate called the Australian Plate. Collisions of tectonic plates would result in earthquakes. What I wrote here is merely a concised version of the theory of plate tectonics, but if anyone is interested, the details can be read here.

Looking back, I have written quite a bit on earthquakes in this blog. The entries can be read here, here, here and here. Personally, I believe that the earthquakes will continue to happen from time to time. I don't think we can stop earthquakes from happening. The real question is how well-equipped are we to prepare for an earthquake and manage the aftermath?

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