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Mentawai Tsunami Update

On October 25th, 2010, a 7.7 magnitude undersea earthquake 150 miles west of Bengkulu, Indonesia, generated a tsunami that devastated the nearby Mentawai Islands. The tsunami most severely impacted the South Pagai, North Pagai, and Sipora islands in the Mentawai archipelago off the coast of Indonesia, claiming over 500 lives and injuring a few hundred more. 

It was widely reported that the tsunami reached only 3 meters (10 ft), but during a field survey of the event, it was discovered that the tsunami reached up to 16 m (~50 ft) in certain places and inundated as far as 600 m (~2000 feet) inland. The size of the tsunami is particularly surprising because it is much larger than a 7.7 quake would have suggested. As a result, it is believed that the tsunami may have been the product of a slow quake occurring over a longer duration, also known as a “tsunami earthquake”. 

In the months following, there have been several efforts from international agencies to provide aid and relief to the roughly 15,000 displaced Indonesians. Unfortunately, due to poor weather conditions and the remoteness of the islands, relief teams initially had difficulty reaching the Mentawais. After navigating the obstacles, relief teams were able to provide food, shelter, and medical attention for the thousands of newly homeless people.

ASR Scientist Jose Borrero, who was featured in the Jakarta Globe for his research of the tsunami, has released a preliminary field report of the tsunami effects in the Mentawai Islands. The report details the post-tsunami investigation of Pagai, Sipora and Southern Siberut Islands. Dr. Borrero worked in conjunction with researchers from Earth Observatory Singapore, the Indonesian Institute of Science, Georgia (USA) Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California to collect information on the tsunami and its effects. The data will be used to better understand this unusual event from a scientific point of view and to improve hazard mitigation strategies in the Mentawai Islands.

To view the complete report click here.

The Indonesian Government formally terminated the Emergency Response on November 22, 2010, ending the emergency relief program and marking the beginning of efforts to rebuild the communities in the Mentawais. SurfAid International, whose staff is comprised of 90% Indonesian nationals, has played an integral role in supporting relief efforts in the Mentawais. They raised substantial funds for aid and continue to provide assistance on site, helping to implement recovery programs to rehabilitate victims and their communities. To learn more about Surfaid’s involvement go here:

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