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Indonesia Hydropower Project Group of the Institute of Geology, China EarthquakeAdministration: Never be afraid of a strong earthquake and tsunami; stick to the front-line survey

2019/11/28 16:07:52

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, to meet the needs of the country's economic development, under the direction of the leaders of the country, the Earthquake Working Committee of the Chinese Academy of Sciences began to study earthquakes in China. To date, China has used earthquake instruments to observe earthquakes for less than 100 years, and only by relying on historical data can we understand seismic activity over a longer period of time.

China’s science and technology have enabled “Chang'e” to land on the moon and “Jiaolong” to enter the sea,but a problem for the world is that it is easier to go up than to go down. Until now, after thousands of years of exploration, man has not been able to learn the secrets of the underground. However, through the hard work of generations of Chinese earthquake workers, China’s earthquake research has become ranked among the world's most advanced.

In recent years, in response to the national strategy of the “Belt and Road Initiative” and to better serve the construction of major projects along the route, the China EarthquakeAdministration has successively assisted in the construction of 50 seismic networks in foreign countries that are part of the “Belt and Road Initiative,” and has undertaken dozens of earthquake safety evaluation projects associated with major projects. When the Chinese seismologists went abroad, they fully understood the great mission and glorious responsibility they shouldered, and they presented the image of China with the spirit of exploration.

In September 2018, the Indonesia Hydropower Project team of the Institute of Geology responded to the national call to serve in the construction of the “Belt and Road Initiative.” They conducted an activity for identification of faults around the site of the dam of the Laliombilihydropower station south of the Sulawesi Palu Basin in Indonesia,and performed a field survey of thePalu fault, which is a fault with a left-lateral strike-slip rate of up to 35 mm/a.

Members of the Indonesia Hydropower Project team include researchers Ran Hongliu, Chen Jie, Yin Gongming, RenZhikun, and Drs.Liu Jinrui and GuoPeng. At noon on September 28, 2018, they checked into the PaluSeasideHotel. At 3 p.m., they experienced a magnitude 6.1 earthquake followed by a magnitude 7.4 earthquake and tsunami.

At 18:02 on September 28, a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck Palu, Indonesia, triggering a tsunami. The earthquake was triggered by the Palu-Koro Fault. Prior to the earthquake, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in the fault zone was no more than magnitude 6.5. The most recent earthquake was magnitude 6.3 in 2012, which did not match its high slip rate and even led scholars to speculate that the Palu-Koro Fault was dominated by creep slip. At the time of the earthquake, six scholars from the Indonesia Hydropower Project team were working on the Palu-Koro Fault at the site. After the earthquake, part of the surface rupture zone was found, and the maximum left-lateral co-earthquake dislocation was found to be 8 meters. The distribution of the surface rupture zone of this earthquake in the Palu urban area was not consistent with the distribution of the Palu-Koro Fault drawn in previous studies. That is to say, part of the surface rupture of this earthquake in the Palu urban area occurred on a fault that had not been studied before, and whether it is a new fault or whether the fault was simply not found in previous studies needs to be further studied and solved. In addition to the damage of the earthquake itself, the earthquake also triggered a strong tsunami and large-scale sand liquefaction, which resulted in a large number of casualties and property losses. In particular, this earthquake was caused by a strike-slip fault, a type of earthquake that does not easily trigger a tsunami, but it nonetheless triggered a strong tsunami. The earthquake's liquefaction of sand swallowed homes and people in several neighborhoods; about 5,000 people are missing.

Six scientists near the causative fault escaped from death, although some of them were bruised. All their field equipment, passports, shoes, hats, and other luggage were buried in the collapsed hotel. Two of them lost their mobile phones. To better cope with the crisis, the Indonesia Hydropower Project team set up a temporary party branch, and decided to advance and retreat together. After the earthquake, there were water and power cuts, strong aftershocks continued to occur, communication was intermittent, and the team had no changes of clothes. With barely enough food and water and extreme shortages of fuel and other supplies, they braved the summer heat, and despite pain and suffering, wearing slippers and sneakers borrowed from local people, they assisted the national earthquake rescue team on standby for preliminary preparations, and carried out a preliminary investigation of the surface rupture zone and earthquake disaster in the earthquake area. They used an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with only four batteries to obtain high-resolution images of the earthquake damage along the surface rupture zone and the earthquake damage over a length of 3 to 4 km.

With their expertise and strong will, the members of the Indonesia Hydropower Project have proven China's expertise in earthquake fault detection and seismic zoning to help the Indonesian government with post-disaster reconstruction and planning.

The expedition encountered unprecedented difficulties. In the past, when we conducted earthquake research in China, we usually carried a variety of sophisticated observation equipment. In Indonesia, the scientists were bracing for aftershocks, building collapses, dizziness from the heat, and weakness from the lack of food and water. By the third day after the earthquake, the public security situation and epidemic situation in the disaster area had gradually deteriorated, and the water and food purchased in advance had almost run out. It is impossible not to be afraid in such a situation, but fear cannot solve the problem. They could only swallow when they were thirsty, and lay down in a spacious place for a while when they were sleepy. In the face of such difficulties, the scientific researchers never stopped their observations or recordings. They analyzed and discuss together and fought against the difficulties with their enthusiasm.

During an earthquake, the scientists showed the work ethic of Chinese earthquake workers and the image of a great country with the spirit of devoting themselves to scientific research. They did not change their mind, but continued to try to explore the secrets of the earthquake, for the purposes of earthquake prevention and disaster reduction for all mankind in the struggle.