Fugly Bali
Is Bali next for a mass killer tsunami?
The same fault line that generated the December 26th tidal wave runs just south of Bali!
163,978 died in sparsely populated Aceh - how many would die on Bali?

It is an unfortunate fact that the very same fault line which caused the December 26th 2004 tsunami, where the Eurasia plate pushes over the Australia plate, runs just south of Bali. It is also a chilling thought that Bali's main tourist areas are just 20 minutes away from a similar tsunami should a similar earthquake occur in the wrong place. But what makes this even more worrying is that some experts in Europe have indicated such a quake may be long overdue and perhaps hastened by the extra tension created between the plates just off south Sumatra, Java and Bali by the December 2004 disaster. You see, after the December 26th quake that caused the killer tsunami across the Indian Ocean, virtually all of the aftershocks happened to the north of the main quake's epicenter. Aftershocks are where smaller quakes occur elsewhere along the main and neighboring fault lines to give off the extra tension caused there by the main quake. So it is probable that extra tension, unrelieved by aftershocks, has built up along the Sunda Trench (fault line) to the south.

Bali and potential visitors to the island have been lulled into a false sense of security by the fact the island was untouched by the December 2004 tsunami, by token of the fact it was shielded by Java and Sumatra (the large X marks the epicenter, so you can see this), and by the unsubstantiated optimism of both the Indonesian Government and tour operators / travel agents that it could never happen to Bali. There has even been talk of implementing the tsunami warning system used elsewhere in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. But this would not help Bali during a local event, as it is just 20 short minutes by tidal wave away from the fault line. This warning would only help other countries, further away get advanced warning.

Anyway, there would be no siren alarm needed if a major quake happened along the Sunda Trench just south of Bali. Anyone and everyone on Bali would feel such a quake and how. The damage to buildings erected without any strict building codes would likely be considerable. The irony being, those that were flexible enough to survive the quake would almost certainly not have the constructed strength, by default, to withstand an incoming tsunami if they are near the beach. Anyway, even if we assume there was not utter devastation from the quake, getting away from any resulting tidal wave would be a major problem for people in the low lying tourist areas close to the ocean. You see, the largest wave that hit Aceh (nearest to the quake) on December 26th 2005, was some 30 meters (100 feet) high. Tidal waves as high as 60 meters have been known. To put this in proportion, a London double decker bus is 4.2 meters high. For many buildings, 30 meters equates to 7 storys / floors. It is perhaps ironic, due to Bali's regulations for building heights, that no building can be higher than a coconut palm tree. The maximum height of a coconut palm tree is 30 meters, although most are much smaller of course.

Experts in Europe have predicted further quakes in the area, and were confirmed as accurate by further quakes along this fault line on the 28th March (8.7 on the Richter scale) and 8th June (6.3 on the Richter scale). Optimists will point out that it takes a large and very specific kind of quake under the sea to generate a tsunami. A quake above 9 on the Richter scale where the sea bed is raised by 15 meters or more. Unfortunately, the Sunda trench is a fault line that causes mostly vertical movements in the earth's crust, as one plate rises above another. Other fault lines, as you can see on the above image, such as the Sumatra fault (which runs parallel to the Sunda Trench fault) are lateral faults. That is they move in opposite direction and grate against each, not move above / beneath each other. So whatever magnitude of quake happens along the Sunda trench will almost certainly result in the sea bed being raised. And the fact is, the Sunda trench is a major fault line and well capable of producing 9+ Richter scale quakes.

Some may well say this page is not fair on the Balinese / Indonesians, as it is not something they are guilty of or can easily solve. But we believe the Indonesian Authorities should produce Earthquake, Volcano (Bali has 2 active ones) and Tsunami education information sheets for tourists. More stringent building codes would certainly help too. So in lieu of this, how can you avoid and / or protect yourself and earthquakes while on Bali?


First, find a strong structure such as a heavy table or doorway to protect yourself under. Do not run out into the street unless you have no choice, as you are more likely to be injured from falling glass and debris. Once the quake is over, immediately move to a safe area if you can to avoid the risk of gas leaks, further quakes, etc. Avoid beach areas or areas with weak soil, as strong quakes may turn these into quicksand. If you suspect the quake was out to sea and significant enough, try to make your way to higher land / inland to avoid any resultant tsunamis.

Tsunamis / Tidal Waves

To lessen your chances of being affected by a tsunami, stay at a hotel at least 50 meters (160 feet) above sea level or 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) inland from the beach. Or stay in a beach area sheltered by land mass from the potential wave source. Although these sheltered beach areas are likely to experience some flooding if the land mass is not that great; as what happened on Koh Phi Phi and Koh Phuket in Thailand, the sheltered side of the islands experienced some rising water). The main tourist areas in Bali most at risk are Jimbaran Bay, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua, Sanur and Candi Dasa. As they have low lying beach areas which directly face the Sunda trench.

If you believe a tsunami is imminent, chose whichever is the most available option;
a) Move as quickly as possible inland and / or to higher ground.
b) Get to the top of the tallest building you are able or climb the nearest tree.

Please do not become a victim or part of the problem. Read:
Bali Tourism (Should I go, where, and how do I avoid adding to the problem / putting myself / my family at risk in Bali?).


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