12/31/2004

Devastating quake redraws map

Roger Musson of the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh. 'This is the largest earthquake I've seen in my career as a seismologist,' he told news@nature.com. 'The length of the rupture was 1,200 kilometres - I could hardly believe it.'

The earthquake, measured at magnitude 9.0, actually consisted of three events within seconds of each other, Musson says. The initial slip, which occurred to the west of Sumatra's northern tip, triggered two further slips to the north. The total force released was enough to jolt the entire planet, and has been estimated as equivalent to almost 200 million tonnes of TNT.

The seafloor bulge unleashed a wave that surged throughout the Indian Ocean, hitting Indonesia and Thailand within an hour, Sri Lanka and India within four hours, and ultimately causing deaths as far away as East Africa. The swell would have been imperceptible in the open ocean, but as it entered shallower coastal waters it reared up to several metres in height, destroying seafront villages and resorts, and washing through farms up to 5 kilometres inland.

news@nature.com�-�Devastating quake redraws map

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