Massive Myanmar quake, tsunami could kill millions around Bay of Bengal

PARIS, Sept 5, 2007 (AFP) – The northern tip of the Bay of Bengal, home to tens of millions of people, faces a potential double whammy from an earthquake and tsunami, a scientist warned on Wednesday. He says the peril does not appear to be immediate but says there are many unknowns and further work is needed to quantify the risk.

Quake experts today fret about a stress point just east of where the December 26, 2004 temblor occurred near the Indonesian island of Sumatra, killing some 220,000 people. The risk of another giant event at this spot is high, they fear.

But Phil Cummins of Geoscience Australia says another danger lurks to the north along the coast of Myanmar and Bangladesh, in a so-called subduction zone — where one part of the Earth’s crust is slowly diving under another.

A vicious “locked-thrust” fault, of the kind that unleashes tsunamis, runs parallel to the shore in similar fashion to the Sumatra fault, he believes.

It has been overlooked because the last big quake there was nearly two and a half centuries ago, and the fault lies hidden under seabed sediment up to 20 kilometres (12 miles thick), he contends.

“This is the type of earthquake that could generate a