Major Sumatran quake, tsunami likely in decades: study

SINGAPORE, December 12, 2008 (AFP) – More than one million people on Indonesia’s Sumatra island are vulnerable to a massive earthquake and tsunami potentially more destructive than one which struck four years ago, scientists who released a study Friday warned.

The quake and tsunami are likely within the next few decades, they said.

On December 26, 2004, a 9.3-magnitude earthquake off Sumatra triggered tsunamis which killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Aceh province on the northwestern tip of Sumatra, in one of deadliest natural disasters ever.

The Boxing Day quake marked the largest in a series of big earthquakes as large sections of the active fault beneath the eastern Indian Ocean flank failed over the past eight years, the study in the US magazine Science says.

“One question of great humanitarian and scientific importance is which remaining un-ruptured sections” of the fault will fail next, says the international study led by Kerry Sieh, director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore at Nanyang Technological University.

Until late last year the largest remaining unbroken Sumatran section was a stretch known as the Mentawai Patch, the study said. But in September 2007 an 8.4-magnitude quake