A magnitude 7.6 earthquake occurred today about 30 miles WNW of Padang, a city of 900,000 and the capital city of the Indonesian state of West Sumatra. According to the USGS, all structures in Padang that were not built to be earthquake resistant—which is many—suffered heavy damage.
This event affects us at GeoHazards International particularly powerfully, because we have been visiting and working in Padang for more than four years now. Over this period, we have grown close to the people and ever more concerned about the risk with which they live. We are attempting to help the city prepare for a great earthquake and the tsunami waves it will generate. Earth science research has made it terribly clear that Padang must expect these events during the next 30 years, and that the tsunami will very quickly inundate half of the city.
If anything good can be said about today's disaster, it is that the earthquake was so deep that it did not trigger the long-expected tsunami. On the other hand, this event probably did not relieve stress on that portion of the fault that can—and eventually will—generate a tsunami. Thus, Padang must still count on having a large tsunami in its future.
Our team, including some Stanford University students, returned from Padang just last month, after spending the summer researching how best to contribute to the construction of much needed tsunami shelters. This photo shows some of the children who attend a school that our team inspected.
Padang students greet GeoHazards International staff during visit to evaluate the building's disaster readiness.