Why geography curses Indonesia — and always will

HONG KONG, May 29, 2006 (AFP) – The powerful earthquake that hit Indonesia was just the latest display of violent seismic activity on the archipelago, which stretches across one of the most unstable parts of the Earth’s surface. The country’s position on the planet’s crust means it will continue to experience such catastrophes, just as it has done for the past 50 million years or so, according to seismologists.

“The problem with Indonesia is that you have an area of intense seismic activity coinciding with a very densely populated part of the world,” said Gary Gibson, professor of seismology at the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

“It means there will always be some terrible loss to earthquakes in Indonesia.”

The plates of the planet’s crust that float on the molten core of the Earth smash against each other constantly, but while those plates usually move only a little bit each year, those that meet at Indonesia move more quickly.

“These are probably the most active plates in the world — one is moving at around seven centimetres (nearly three inches) a year,” said Mark Leonard, seismologist at Geoscience Australia.

“That’s incredibly fast and as a result it produces a lot of energy that has to be dis