Indonesia has been living up to its reputation as the most seismically active country on earth. At least 300 people have been killed on the Mentawai Islands off Sumatra by a tsunami, which has washed away at least 13 villages.
After the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, that killed 94,000 people on Sumatra, a new early warning system was installed, but Indonesian officials say two buoys off the Mentawai Islands that formed part of it had been vandalised and were out of service. Even if the system had been functioning properly, though, warnings may still have reached local people too late.
Meanwhile, in central Java, 32 people have been killed by the eruption of the volcano, Mount Merapi. It is regarded as Indonesia’s most active, but the area around is heavily populated, and tens of thousands of people are now in temporary shelters.
Indonesia has seen many major eruptions – the most famous being Krakatoa in 1883, which killed around 36,000 people, though much more powerful was Tambora in 1815, which was responsible for perhaps 80,000 deaths in Indonesia, and thousands more around the world because of the volcanic winter the eruption caused. For more, see A Disastrous History of the World.
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