Earthquake Sulawesi, Indonesia - one of these (internationally) almost forgotten earthquakes

Earthquake overview : A very strong shallow and thus dangerous earthquake struck in the afternoon local time below the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia
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Indonesia-only earthquake list

Keep this page open to read more details when they become available
- With the collaboration of ER reader Jens in scanning potential damage

Update 26/08 - 14:00 UTC:

From the quake - 5 people died through the earthquake, with 6 additional people dying from flash floods this week.

27 people were seriously injured.

67 people were slightly injured.

527 houses were severely damaged, 311 homes moderately damaged and 788 homes with minor damage.

Relief efforts are continuing.

The following work has been done:

1. Teams conduct coordination meetings (BPBD, Regent, Army, Department of Relevant agencies) generated validation and data synchronization of casualties and damage.

2. The team has carried out the handover of operational assistance to BPBD Kab Army. 
3. The team has carried out the monitoring and advisory posts - Tufa District 
4. Dropping water is via 25 motorcycles in the district. 
5. Emergency response until the 12 September 2012 invisaged initially. 

Update 24/08 - 11:25 UTC
- A M4.6 aftershock occurred in the same area at 03:42 local time. The epicenter was following the USGA at 49 km from Palu. This aftershock can inflict even more landslides in the already hard hit area causing the death of 6 people on August 18
- No more news from the earthquake scene.

Earthquake damage - Nobody seems to concern in the world, but the damage is really big for many families - image courtesy and copyright

Update 22/08 - 08:10 UTC
- Diesel is currently being transported by motorcycles to the Lindu district. Only 2-wheel vehicles are able to pass the heavily damaged roads and trails and transporting diesel by helicopters is not allowed.
- The governor of the regency has visited the earthquake area by helicopter. He said that approx. 80% of the villages near the Lindu epicenter have been devastated.
- The death toll is probably not higher because of the construction type of the traditional houses. They are mostly made of wood and bamboor, more modern houses are build in concrete and brick and if not properly constructed with earthquake resistant techniques,  they cannot sustain such MMI VII (very strong) shaking.

Very Important Update 21/08 - 11:10 UTC
BNPB just launched a new overview report stating that 5 people have died (previously set to 6), 17 people seriously injured  and 25 people slightly injured.
- 344 families have been displaced
- 471 houses were damaged in various degrees (collapsed, seriously damaged or slightly damaged). BNBP frther states that most of the collapsed houses were not constructed with earthquake resistant methods.
- 310 military personnel are helping with various kinds of aid
- 2 helicopters have made 13 flights carrying food and relief material to remote settlements.
- 4- wheel drive vehicles can now pass most of the landslide damaged roads
- The Lindu district (mostly National Park area) has still NO mobile telecommunications
- Some aid is provided in the Lindu district by motorcycle and horse as roads were not allowed to be constructed within the National Park boundaries

Army helicopters flying to isolated villages - Image courtesy and copyright VIVAnews / Ikhwan Yanuar

Update 21/08 - 09:17 UTC continues to follow up the aftermath of the Sulawesi M6.2 earthquake
- Helicopters have finally reached the off road villages in the hardest hit area and have transported some seriously injured people to hospitals in Palu. Military personnel are helping rescuers to reach the remote villages via land.
- An important section of the blocked road to Kulawi has been re-opened after that heavy material was deployed to clean the rubble
- The death toll caused by the landslides was reported in a local newspaper to be 4. It is unclear to us whether the 4 people were already included in the 6 reported fatalities reported earlier.
- BNPB disaster unit has not released a new report on Tuesday
- And .... if misery from earthquakes is not enough, tribes are clashing in the Sigi regency with 1 person killed and more injured. These tribal clashes are a regular phenomena in the Indonesian islands

- Metro TV Indonesia
has a video on the internet which was captured live from Sigi earlier today. A reporter explains the situation in the earthquake area. For those who do not speak Bahasa or Indonesian, some images can be viewed from the tents erected near houses, the Rescue headquarters, damage to houses and some opened landslide areas. Click here or on the image below to watch the video.

Update 20/08 - 14:58 UTC
The following information should make the 08:58 information more complete (courtesy Jakarta Post)
Due to the area being a national park, the government has forbidden to from construct roads to provide access to the area. To reach the villages, one has to either walk for around six hours, or ride a motorcycle for around three hours. The area also has limited telecommunication access. For all these reasons helicopter deployment is super-urgent. Helicopters can easily distribute aid to the isolated quake victims.
- The Sulawesi Lindu earthquake has killed six people, damaged 1097 houses, seven places of worship, three schools and one government office. Dozens of people suffered minor injuries during the earthquake.

Landslides in Sigi - without heavy equipment, nothing can be done - image courtesy

Update 20/08 - 08:58 UTC
- The death toll has unfortunately climbed to 6
- Some reports are talking about 1000+ houses damaged some severely
- The landslides blocking the main road have not been removed completely, making it impossible for Rescue and aid transports to reach a lot of villages (Indonesian reports do speak about dozens of settlements). The landslide area is about 10 km long.
- A lot of villages around the Lindu lake (also a National Park) are still cut off from civilization which means that a complete assessment of the situation has not been done yet and also means that the toll of this earthquake can further increase. The current account of dead, injured and damage is thus far from complete.
- Red Cross Indonesia has promised to send an helicopter on Tuesday ... to reach these remote villages.
- The Indonesian army has a big fleet of helicopters. Deploying 5 or 10 helicopters when the weather allows it, would be a great peaceful task. Where are they waiting for ? (comment ER)

Image courtesy

Very Important Update 19/08 - 22:00 UTC
BPBD, the government agency responsible for following up and managing disasters in Indonesia came with a long awaited first official assessment report. Unfortunately bad news.
- 4 people have been killed during this earthquake.
- 7 people were seriously injured
- 51 houses have been reported as severely damaged
The wordt impact occurred in 9 villages in 3 districts Kulawi (Namo, Bolapapu, Boladangko, Tangkulowi, and Saluwa), Lindu (Tomado) and Gumbasa (Pakuli, Tuva and Omu)
- The report is not yet complete as at least 10 landslides are still blocking the main road. Heavy equipment has been send to the landslide areas (bulldozers, trucks, etc)
- Victims with minor injuries have been treated in their respective villages.
- Buildings who have not been affected by the earthquake are used as shelters

Update 19/08 - 12:05 UTC
Avalanches occurred from kilometer 50 to kilometer 60 of on the main road to Kulawi  (border between the District and District Gumbasa Kulawi, Sigi Regency).

Update 19/08 - 12:05 UTC : a classic example of epicenter uncertainty
-  The image below made by our colleagues of  is showing what a difficult task it is to determine the location of the epicenter and accordingly the place to look at for SAR and AID workers to find the most damaged areas. Imagine that you are a rescue authority and that a massive earthquake strikes. Where to go to or to look at first. Telecommunications and power are down, so nobody can tell you what the exact situation of the earthquake is. Additionally, the seismological agencies are doing their best to provide the epicenter location as accurate as possible but they are differing often in tens of km's for distant quakes, just like we have witnessed here in Sulawesi. Earthquake science is making big steps forward but is far from being 100% accurate. ER tends to give the benefit of the doubt for the local well organized seismological agencies, but as could be read below, also this is far from accurate as they are often nationally structured and as some equipment is installed and read locally, like in this case in Palu. The orange sign is an aftershock. We know that the buttons are hard to read, but the story behind the buttons is that they are far from accurate.
Based on the instruments which are monitored in Palu, the epicenter was located in the Sigi regency. BMKG matched the epicenter best (just north of the Lindu lake)

Epicenter location as reported by the different seismological agencies - image courtesy - Click on the map for the interactive version

Very important update 19/08 - 07:45 UTC (ongoing update):
- a 9 year old boy was killed during the earthquake (some (international) press is talking about 3 killed people, but this could not be confirmed locally at this moment
- 12 people have been seriously injured
- at least 40 houses have been seriously damaged or collapsed
- Houses have been seriously damaged houses in the following villages : Namo, Boladangko, Bolapapu and Tangkulowi  (Sigi district)
- There is still some confusion on where the epicenter was located of the mainshock. Soon after the earthquake epicenter was said to be in the Regency Parigi Moutong. After further investigation BMKG had admitted that the epicenter was located in the Sigi regency (sub-province Kulawi, Gumbasa and Lindu). the update has been reported by BMKG after that the data from the regional BMKG office at Palu was analyzed.
- 200 rescue workers have been mobilized to asses the damage in the villages and to help the people
- The power was off moments after the earth started to shake

Image courtesy

Update 20:07 UTC :
- The Indonesian disaster authority hopes that heavy equipment will be able to open the landslide blocked road tomorrow, enabling them to reach a number of settlements they not have reached yet.
- The reason that we are having less news is simply that we are in the Indonesian night which is another setback for rescue services and aid
- As always, numbers on the injured vary along the source. With a high degree of certainty we can now say that 1 person was killed, 3 seriously injured and another 15 slightly injured.  This is however an intermediate status and we expect that the numbers will increase tomorrow when more villages and settlements in the epicenter area are reached. The seriously injured people have been transported to hospitals in Palu. The 3 people who could not be treated in Sigi are in fact children of the age of 5 months, 7 years and 8 years old.
- Some houses have collapsed and a lot more have damages in various degrees
- Indonesia is well organized to handle SAR (search and rescue) and relief aid after earthquakes
- Good news from the Palu telecommunications network who said that traffic did not have serious problems and that the sender masts operated like normal.

Update 16:57 UTC : Landslides have blocked the important road to Kulawi.

Update 16:41 UTC : The earthquake scene includes the districts of Sigi and Gumbasa. Hundreds of people have chosen to spend the night in tents (or self made tents or tents from the disaster authorities) as they are afraid to stay overnight is sometimes already damaged houses. Putting a tent in their own garden is guarding at the same time their property.
At present we can report that at least 30 houses have been seriously damaged and 100 slightly damaged.

Important update 16:15 UTC : Unfortunately we have to report that a 9 year old boy was killed by falling debris during the M 6.2 earthquake in Sulawesi. Dozens have been injured. (source Indonesian media stating BPBD)

Update 15:25 UTC : At least 23 houses have been damaged in Paragi Mountong district, close to the epicenter. The villages where the damaged houses are located are Desa Namo, Bolapapu, and Tangkolowi.

Update 15:05 UTC : A BPBD spokesman said that 2 people have been injured by falling debris in the village of Parigi Mountong, a district close to the epicenter.

Update 14:45 UTC : The American seismological agency USGS has updated the earthquake data and decreased the Magnitude from 6.6 to 6.3. The hypocenter depth has been changed from 20.2 to 19.9, not a real difference.

Update 14:30 UTC : The earthquake happened during the last hours of the Ramadan. The end of the Ramadan is a great feast for all the families.

Update 13:43 UTC : We are trying to obtain more news from the earthquake area but so far without a lot of details. As the night has fallen and as a lot of people do not want to go inside, we will need to wait until a calmer period. Electricity has been restored shortly before 7 PM in many populated areas.

Update 12:59 UTC : People in Palu have mentioned that the shaking lasted about 15 seconds. Darkness has fallen in Indonesia now, so it may take a lot of hours before we will have reports from the epicenter area. The current reports are arriving from the bigger cities at tens of km from the epicenter. As said before, the radius we have called very dangerous for injuries and serious damage is approx. 20 km around the epicenter. The locations were damage was reported are outside this radius !

Update 12:46 UTC : Shaking was felt until Palu City, Donggala, Poso, and Morowali which is about 100 kilometers from the epicenter. Panic broke out in a shopping mall in Palu city. A first overview is reporting many damaged buildings in Tavanjuka and Sigi

Update 11:51 UTC :  17 minutes after the mainshock a first strong M4.9 aftershock has been recorded.

Update 11:49 UTC :  The earthquake occurred along the Palu Koro fault line who is moving at a speed of 3 cm per year! The Palu Koro fault stretches over a distance of 800 km. A BPBD (National Disaster Management Agency) spokesperson said that the fault is known as very dangerous. The epicenter following this agency was at only 40 km from the big city of Palu. First reports out of Palu are not mentioning serious damage to important buildings.

Update 11:40 UTC :  As could be expected with this kind of strong earthquake, the power was down.

Update 11:30 UTC :  BMKG reported that the epicenter of the earthquake was located at 27 km Southwest of Central Sulawesi Parigimoutong or 40 miles Southeast Sulawesi Tenggah Palu.

Update 11:18 UTC : In Palu, a city located 54 km from the epicenter, people ran in panic out of their houses. Palu has 282,000 inhabitants !

Lindu lake - image courtesy Mujiyanto

Update 11:09 UTC : Ranu Lindu or Lindu Lake is an Indonesian National Park. The hills surrounding the lake are quite low making landslides less evident, although they can also be generated in lower hills if the area has been saturated by rain. The area of the national park is 2,180 km² covering both lowland and montane forests. It provides habitat to numerous rare species, including 77 bird species endemic to Sulawesi. The national park is designated as part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves. In addition to its rich wildlife, the park also contains megaliths dating from before 1300 AD.
The easiest access to visit the national park is from Palu to Kamarora (50 kilometers in 2.5 hours drive). Due to a lot of rainfall up to 4,000 mm a year in the southern part of the national park, the best time to visit is from July to September. ER : luckily we are currently in the relatively dry season

Update 11:07 UTC : Indonesian sources report no casualties or damage but this of course far too soon to say something like that. The strongest shaking has been experienced in a very remote area and it may take many hours before that we get a decent report. Additionally darkness will fall in a few hours making eventual rescue and assessment tasks even more difficult.

Very Important Update 10:48 UTCTotally different (and less dangerous) numbers at BMKG, the seismological agency from Indonesia. BMKG reports at Magnitude of 6.2  (a HUGE difference in energy) at a depth of 10 km. Nevertheless these better numbers, the earthquake remains dangerous. BMKG (which has the most seismological instruments installed in Sulawesi, puts the location of the epicenter to the north of the lake. Once more we see totally different data depending on the seismological reports. It will take a while before the conflicting data will be solved. BMKG also reported that nobody has to fear for a tsunami but we know from earlier experiences that everybode will have fled to higher grounds following the shaking.

Update 10:48 UTC : The nearest populated places are: Pangana (17km), Tomado (7km), Loeo (11km). The closest civilian airport is Mutiara (52km).

Update 10:43 UTC : People may have been very lucky to have experienced a M4.7 foreshock at the same area a little less than 2 hours before the main earthquake struck. Indonesian people have the habbit to auto-evacuate if a strong shaking happens and a lot of them may have been out of their houses.

Update : this earthquake is not a (less dangerous) subduction earthquake, but a transform earthquake. Transform earthquakes are far more dangerous because of the ground movement styles.

Update : There is a substantial wave risk on the very big Rano Lindu lake as the epicenter of the earthquake happened only a few km from the lakeshore

Update : The population versus the epicenter radies is as follows (courtesy GDACS) :
Radius    Population
100 km    1.2 million people
75 km    1 million people
50 km    900000 people
20 km    41000 people
10 km    1600 people
5 km     <1000 people
2 km     <1000 people
Based on these data and based on our experiences, about 50,000 people are having damage and injuries risks. To the positive side we have to explain that the building style in the area is mostly of wood and bamboo which is very earthquake resistant.

Shaking map courtesy USGS

Theoretical calculations are reporting that 120000 people may have experienced a potential damaging strong shaking!
In 1985 a similar M6.6 earthquake made no fatalities at 85 km from the current epicenter. Although this is looking good, earthquakes are hard to compare and almost never have the same output.

We are currently writing at this article, please refresh every couple of minutes.

Most important Earthquake Data:
Magnitude : Mw 6.6
UTC Time : Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 09:41:54 UTC
Local time at epicenter : Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 05:41:54 PM at epicenter
Depth (Hypocenter) : 20.2 km
Geo-location(s) :
56 km (34 miles) SSE of Palu, Indonesia
72 km (44 miles) W of Poso, Indonesia

Links to important maps
Google satellite map showing the epicenter and the surrounding area
Historic earthquakes map
Seismic hazard map
Shaking map
Scientific parameters
Human impact map

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Refresh this list
SRC Location UTC Date/time M D INFO
USGS Simeulue, Indonesia Aug 18 17:16 4.4 42 MAP
EMSC Simeulue, Indonesia Aug 18 17:16 4.4 43 MAP
USGS Halmahera, Indonesia Aug 18 15:31 5.9 46 MAP
EMSC Halmahera, Indonesia Aug 18 15:31 5.5 40 MAP
GEOFON Halmahera, Indonesia Aug 18 15:31 5.7 50 MAP
EMSC Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 15:19 4.7 10 MAP
GEOFON Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 15:19 4.7 10 MAP
EMSC Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 13:47 4.7 10 MAP
GEOFON Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 13:47 4.7 10 MAP
EMSC Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 09:58 4.9 5 MAP
GEOFON Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 09:58 4.8 10 MAP
BMKG Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 09:41 6.2 10 MAP
USGS Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 09:41 6.3 19 MAP
EMSC Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 09:41 6.3 10 MAP
USGS Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 09:41 6.6 10 MAP
  • Palu - Oh god... it's a big earthquake!!! - Strong shaking indicated.
  • GEOFON Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 09:41 6.3 10 MAP
    USGS Sumba Region, Indonesia Aug 18 08:58 4.8 41 MAP
    EMSC Sumba Region, Indonesia Aug 18 08:58 4.8 52 MAP
    GEOFON Sumba Region, Indonesia Aug 18 08:58 4.7 10 MAP
    EMSC Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 07:45 4.7 10 MAP
    GEOFON Sulawesi, Indonesia Aug 18 07:45 4.7 10 MAP
    EMSC South Of Bali, Indonesia Aug 18 06:55 4.6 35 MAP
    GEOFON South Of Bali, Indonesia Aug 18 06:55 4.6 35 MAP


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    I felt the shaking *
    Country where you felt the earthquake *
    City/Village where you felt the earthquake *
    Street or suburb (area) where you felt the earthquake
    Latitude (area) where you felt the earthquake
    Longitude (area) where you felt the earthquake
    Shaking Strength *
    MMI II (Very weak shaking) ?
    People :
    Felt by persons at rest, on upper floors or favorably placed.
    MMI III (Weak shaking) ?
    People :
    Felt indoors; hanging objects may swing, vibration similar to passing of light trucks, duration may be estimated, may not be recognized as an earthquake.
    MMI IV (Light shaking) ?
    People :
    Generally noticed indoors but not outside. Light sleepers may be awakened. Vibration may be likened to the passing of heavy traffic, or to the jolt of a heavy object falling or striking the building.
    Fittings :
    Doors and windows rattle. Glassware and crockery rattle. Liquids in open vessels may be slightly disturbed. Standing motorcars may rock.
    Structures :
    Walls and frames of buildings, and partitions and suspended ceilings in commercial buildings, may be heard to creak.
    MMI V (Moderate shaking) ?
    People :
    Generally felt outside, and by almost everyone indoors. Most sleepers awakened. A few people alarmed.
    Fittings :
    Small unstable objects are displaced or upset. Some glassware and crockery may be broken. Hanging pictures knock against the wall. Open doors may swing. Cupboard doors secured by magnetic catches may open. Pendulum clocks stop, start, or change rate.
    Structures :
    Some large display windows cracked. A few earthenware toilet fixtures cracked.
    MMI VI (Strong shaking) ?
    People Felt by all. People and animals alarmed. Many run outside. Difficulty experienced in walking steadily.
    Fittings :
    Objects fall from shelves. Pictures fall from walls. Some furniture moved on smooth floors, some unsecured free-standing fireplaces moved. Glassware and crockery broken. Very unstable furniture overturned. Small church and school bells ring. Appliances move on bench or table tops. Filing cabinets or "easy glide" drawers may open (or shut).
    Structures :
    Slight damage to buildings with low standard. Some stucco or cement plaster falls. Large display windows broken. Damage to a few weak domestic chimneys, some may fall.
    Environment :
    Trees and bushes shake, or are heard to rustle. Loose material may be dislodged from sloping ground, e.g. existing slides, talus slopes, shingle slides.
    MMI VII (Very strong shaking) ?
    General alarm. Difficulty experienced in standing. Noticed by motorcar drivers who may stop.
    Fittings :
    Large bells ring. Furniture moves on smooth floors, may move on carpeted floors. Substantial damage to fragile contents of buildings.
    Structures :
    Unreinforced stone and brick walls cracked. Low standard buildings cracked with some minor masonry falls. A few instances of damage to buildings of ordinary workmanship. Unbraced parapets, unbraced brick gables, and architectural ornaments fall. Roofing tiles, especially ridge tiles may be dislodged. Many unreinforced domestic chimneys damaged, often falling from roof-line. Water tanks Type I burst. A few instances of damage to brick veneers and plaster or cement-based linings. Unrestrained water cylinders (hot-water cylinders) may move and leak. Some common windows cracked. Suspended ceilings damaged.
    Environment :
    Water made turbid by stirred up mud. Small slides such as falls of sand and gravel banks, and small rock-falls from steep slopes and cuttings. Instances of settlement of unconsolidated or wet, or weak soils. Some fine cracks appear in sloping ground. A few instances of liquefaction (i.e. small water and sand ejections).
    MMI VIII (Severe shaking) ?
    People Alarm may approach panic. Steering of motorcars greatly affected. Structures : Low standard buildings heavily damaged, some collapse. ordinary workmanship buildings damaged, some with partial collapse. Reinforced masonry or concrete buildings damaged in some cases. A few instances of damage to buildings and bridges designed and built to resist earthquakes. Monuments and pre-1976 elevated tanks and factory stacks twisted or brought down. Some pre-1965 infill masonry panels damaged. A few post-1980 brick veneers damaged. Decayed timber piles of houses damaged. Houses not secured to foundations may move. Most unreinforced domestic chimneys damaged, some below roof-line, many brought down. Environment : Cracks appear on steep slopes and in wet ground. Small to moderate slides in roadside cuttings and unsupported excavations. Small water and sand ejections and localized lateral spreading adjacent to streams, canals, lakes, etc.
    MMI IX (Violent shaking) ?
    Structures Many low standard buildings destroyed. Ordinary workmanship buildings heavily damaged, some collapse. Reinforced masonry or concrete buildings damaged, some with partial collapse. Buildings and bridges designed and built to resist earthquakes damaged in some cases, some with flexible frames seriously damaged. Damage or permanent distortion to some buildings and bridges, designed and built to normal use standards. Houses not secured to foundations shifted off. Brick veneers fall and expose frames. Environment : Cracking of ground conspicuous. Landsliding general on steep slopes. Liquefaction effects intensified and more widespread, with large lateral spreading and flow sliding adjacent to streams, canals, lakes, etc.
    Tell us your experience and how many seconds the shaking lasted + let us know if your property has been damaged (even slight damage). (max. 500 characters)
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