Pacific Ocean earthquakes and tsunami, 2009

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Samoa and Sumatra - 29 September to 1 October 2009

At approximately 5:00pm on 29 September 2009, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck just offshore of the town of Padang in Sumatra, Indonesia. The earthquake toppled buildings and started many landslides, smashing homes and swallowing up entire villages.

The following day, as rescue workers arrived and residents tried their best to dig out and help the survivors, another earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6 struck less than 1,000 km south of the original epicentre. In addition, both quakes had at least one aftershock greater than 5.0.

Over 3,000 people are known to have died.

Student activity - Are the quakes related?

The quakes occured on the Pacific Ocean's 'Ring of Fire', an area of particularly high seismic activity. Professor David Rothery (The Open University) argues that both events were not linked. His main argument is that the epicentres of the Samoan and Sumatra quakes are not even on the same plate boundary. However CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller is not so sure, in this article on CNN (accessed 01.10.09), he describes how the force and tension produced by the first quake may just have triggered the second.

Ask your students to list the main arguments outlining why both quakes are linked and why they are not. Discuss in groups or as a class to reach a consensus. Some of the links below provide additional information. Students could search for others when researching this topic.

GIS decision making exercise - Targeting effective earthquake relief in Sumatra

This decision making exercise is based on a real aid response which took place following the earthquake in Sumatra during 2009. The activities make use of acetate sheets to simulate GIS layers and as such are suitable for use in any classroom.

Further information about MapAction's response to the Sumatran earthquake is available on their website. Thanks to Philip Moore at MapAction for providing these resources.

Student activity: Getting relief supplies to earthquake victims

Task Sheet (PDF, 239k)
Sumatra GIS Overlays (Zip, 2.4M)

Tasks for the teacher to set up the exercise:

  1. Print all the overlays onto A4 transparency/acetate. You will need one set for four students.
  2. Print one task sheet per team of 4 students.

Your students can then use these separate layers of data to create information which they can analyse to understand the conditions on the ground and make effective decisions about targeting relief.

Teacher's Answers (PDF, 37k)


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