Dangerous and shallow M 6.3 earthquake struck Sulawesi, Indonesia


Shallow earthquake with magnitude 6.3 struck Sulawesi, Indonesia on August 18, 2012 at 9:41 UTC. The epicenter was 56 km (34 miles) SSE of Palu, Indonesia and 72 km (44 miles) W of Poso, Indonesia at coordinates 1.343°S, 120.104°E. Recorded depth was 19.9 km (12.4 miles). EMSC also measured 6.3 magnitude earthquake but with depth of 10 km.

GDACS reported that this earthquake can have a medium humanitarian impact based on the Magnitude and the affected population and their vulnerability. 1 230 000 people live within 100km radius.

Indonesian sources reported no casualties or damage so far. The strongest shaking has been experienced in a very remote area and it may take many hours before that we get a decent report. Additionally darkness will fall in a few hours making eventual rescue and assessment tasks even more difficult.

ER reported that the nearest populated places are: Pangana (17km), Tomado (7km), Loeo (11km). The closest civilian airport is Mutiara (52km). People may have been very lucky to have experienced a M4.7 foreshock at the same area a little less than 2 hours before the main earthquake struck. Indonesian people have the habbit to auto-evacuate if a strong shaking happens and a lot of them may have been out of their houses.

Unfortunately, this earthquake turned out to be deadly. A nine year old boy was killed by falling debris.

This earthquake is not a (less dangerous) subduction earthquake, but a transform earthquake. Transform earthquakes are far more dangerous because of the ground movement styles.

Landslides have blocked the important road to Kulawi.

USGS first reported 6.6 earthquake then downgraded it to 6.3. Depth was slightly changed.

On August 19, BPBD, the government agency responsible for following up and managing disasters in Indonesia came with a long awaited first official assessment report:

– 4 people have been killed
– 7 people were seriously injured
– 51 houses have been reported as severely damaged. The worst impact occurred in 9 villages in 3 districts Kulawi (Namo, Bolapapu, Boladangko, Tangkulowi, and Saluwa), Lindu (Tomado) and Gumbasa (Pakuli, Tuva and Omu)
– The report is not yet complete as at least 10 landslides are still blocking the main road. Heavy equipment has been send to the landslide areas (bulldozers, trucks, etc)
– Victims with minor injuries have been treated in their respective villages.
– Buildings who have not been affected by the earthquake are used as shelters

Magnitude 6.3
  • Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 09:41:54 UTC
  • Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 05:41:54 PM at epicenter
Location 1.343°S, 120.103°E
Depth 19.9 km (12.4 miles)
Distances 56 km (34 miles) SSE of Palu, Indonesia
72 km (44 miles) W of Poso, Indonesia
180 km (111 miles) N of Rantepao, Indonesia
199 km (123 miles) NE of Mamuju, Indonesia
Location Uncertainty horizontal +/- 11.6 km (7.2 miles); depth +/- 2.6 km (1.6 miles)
Parameters NST=299, Nph=304, Dmin=299.4 km, Rmss=1.21 sec, Gp= 14°,
M-type=”moment” magnitude from initial P wave (tsuboi method) (Mi/Mwp), Version=C
  • Magnitude: USGS NEIC (WDCS-D)
    Location: USGS NEIC (WDCS-D)
Event ID usc000c2hh

Shake map

Pager map



Historical Earthquakes (with MMI)

Date (UTC) Dist(km) Mag Max MMI(#) Shaking Deaths
1985-03-02 78 6.6 VII (110k) 0
1984-01-08 229 6.7 VIII (323) 2
2000-05-04 380 7.5 VIII (17k) 46


Selected Cities Exposed – from GeoNames Database of Cities with 1,000 or more residents.

MMI City Population
VI Palu 282k
V Poso 47k
IV Rantepao 40k
IV Mamuju 938k
IV Polewali 58k
IV Majene 38k
IV Bontang 102k
III Samarinda 355k
III Unaaha 0
III Gorontalo 144k
III Kendari 0

(k = x1,000)

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