2015 - Review on disasters and earthquakes

Spared China - Punished Borneo?

Kyrgyzstan and Nepal - If you are asked which countries are the ones with the most earthquake disasters, what would you answer. Probably not this countries. But Indonesia? Japan? China?
Well, China is in fact the country with the highest number of damaging earthquakes. It is a large country with a high population density, many earthquakes and mainly limited building codes. "Earthquake in China" is always a correct answer for a "current geographical event" in a school geography test. But 2015 China escaped the major disasters. 40 earthquakes have caused damage in China, 54 in 2014. A significant decline, but still within the natural fluctuations.
Only a few of them were really destructive: Two quakes in Yunnan (5.5 and 4.5) in March with 65000 damaged houses and 50 injuries, one quake in Guizhou on March 30 with 3000 damaged houses (2 injuries), another Yunnan quake (M5.1) on October 30, which damaged and destroyed 38.000 houses. Numbers, which seems to be dramaically high, but sad life in China, where something like this happens several times a year.

Three quakes in China were deadly. Two people died in a M4.3 quake in Anhui on March 14, which damaged 15.000 houses. One person was killed in a M4.5 earthquake in Gansu on April 15, which damaged and destroyed 22.000 houses. Three people have died in the worst chinese earthquake of the year, which was the third most destructive earthquake of the year worldwide. It happened on July 3 in Xinjiang. Magnitude 6.5 was registered by the Chinese earthquake center. Though 7586 buildings were destroyed and 70.000 others were damaged, only three people died. 214 suffered injuries. A quake, where ten thousands of people are affected. But now, six months later, many of them have found a new home. Many destroyed houses are rebuild and the relief supply worked well. China knows, how to deal with earthquakes.

Malaysia doesn't. Which becomes visible by their reaction on a strong quake (M5.9), which hit the region Sabah in northern Borneo on June 4. The damage was limited on 500 affected buildings. But this time it was a natural phenomen, which caused deaths. 18 hikers on the "sacred mountain" Kinabalu were killed by rockfalls. Many others were temporarily trapped. Kinabalu, which is important for the local culture and a popular tourist attraction in Sabah turned into a deadly trap. Bad luck that this quake, the strongest for decades in Sabah, happened when tourists visited the danger zone. Punishment, said the residents. Punishment for disrespectful behaviour of a tourist group some days earlier. A judge ordered them to pay a fine, officially only for nude hiking. But many people in Sabah still say this hikers are responsible for the deaths.
The island Borneo, which rarely faces large earthquakes, had a second on December 17, which affected the indonesian region Tarakan (M6.1). At least seven buildings collaped, one person died by a heart attack.

One of 26 damaging earthquakes in Indonesia in 2015. A small increase compared to 2014 (20 quakes). Usually the most affected areas of Indonesia are Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi. In this year, the most destructive quakes hit the remote islands. The strongest on Papua, the most eastern region of Indonesia. Magnitude 7.2, it affected a sparely populated area in the middle of the jungle. However, it resulted in one death: An unlucky boy who fell into a river and drowned. The damage caused by this quake was superficial. February 27, magnitude 7.1, the second strongest quake of the year in Indonesia, which affected the region Nusa Tenggara Timur. Luckily the depth of nearly 600 km prevented massive damage. However, the quakes was widely felt in south-central Indonesia and about 250 buildings suffered damage. Similar effects had strong quakes (both M6.1) in southern Sulawesi (March 15) and southern Sumatra (May 15). Much more damage was caused in the town of Sorong in northern Papua on September 28. A magnitude 6.8 quake hit just offshore and was felt severely across the region. Some hundred buildings collapsed, 3000 were damaged. Most of them in Sorong and aurrounding villages. 45 people were injured. A similar situation occurred on November 4: A strong quake (M6.4) just off the coast of Alor island. In this case, no large town was present, but nevertheless around 2000 buildings were damaged or destroyed. Three people sustained injuries.
A long term (and ongoing?) disaster affected the islands Ternate and Molucca in northern Indonesia during the last weeks of 2015. A swarm of several hundred minor quakes up to M5 damaged more than 1300 houses near the town of Jailolo. Minor quakes are still ongoing. It is unclear of a tectonic movement or a magmatic intrusion (Gamalama volcano?) is responsible for the quakes.

Page 1: The ongoing disaster in Nepal
Page 2: Months of fear in Central Asia
Page 3: Spared China - Punished Borneo?
Page 4: Massive quakes around the pacific "Ring of Fire"
Page 5: Deaths, injuries and destruction

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