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Indonesia: Living Dangerously in an Active Geological Construction Zone

Most of Indonesia is an active tectonic maelstrom as well as one of the most densely populated places on the planet. This dangerous combination is amplified by an overall lack of awareness of natural hazards in the region. More than 200 million people live in harm's way of highly explosive volcanoes, gigantic earthquakes and tsunamis.

We have completed 25 field expeditions to various parts of Indonesia to assess, communicate and mitigate natural hazards. In the process, we have translated hundreds of records kept mostly by Dutch colonists of the major earthquakes and tsunamis in Indonesia as far back as the 16th century. We found evidence of > 200 destructive earthquakes and at least 104 tsunamis. One of the most common descriptions of damage in these records translates to earthquakes and tsunamis turning many cities into “rubble heaps”, multiple times. 'Sea Flood waves' (tsunamis) are noted with run-up heights > 40 meters, which washed away many coastal communities. Multiplying the problem is a 302% increase in population of Indonesia
 since 1950. Now that more people than ever are in harm's way even relatively small hazardous events are claim many more lives than in the past.  

We focus our humanitarian geoscience efforts on 1) assessing the risk of geohazards, 2) effective communication of risk and 3) risk reduction activities. Thousands of lives have been saved by these efforts (see success stories).


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This map shows the sites were we have conducted disaster mitigation research and implementation of risk reduction interventions. At most of the red and black pin we have recorded different types of data documenting past earthquakes and tsunamis, made presentations at schools, community and government organizations, and conducted evacuation drills, building guidelines and other risk reduction activities.  

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