Asst. Prof. Afroz Ahmad Shah, Ph.D.
Prediction or Living with Earthquake Hazards?
Abstract. Some of the major seismogenic (earthquake causing) faults exist in Indonesia, and these are
mostly related to the Sumatra subduction zone, which marks the location of Sunda megathrust at
which the active convergence of Indo-Australia plate and Sunda plate occurs. The convergence is
oblique, and therefore some portion of it has been absorbed by the trench parallel component of
fault movement via strike-slip fault system. Historically, a number of large magnitude and
destructive earthquakes have occurred on the Sunda megathrust and the Sumatran fault systems.
On 26 December 2004, a significant portion of the Sunda megathrust fault ruptured resulting in a
> 9 magnitude earthquake that led to widespread devastation of life and property. The earthquake
caused an upsurge in the literature on earthquakes on the megathrust fault. However, the Western
Indonesia has not received that much attention possibly because of the lack of the major
earthquakes in the contemporary history. This region is tectonically diverse and a number of
major seismogenic faults exist, which are capable of producing medium to large magnitude
earthquakes in the future. The moment magnitude 7.5 earthquake that struck Minahasa,
Sulawesi, Indonesia on 28th September 2018 has resulted in a massive loss of life and property.
This earthquake occurred on a familiar fault, known as the Polu-Koro fault, at a shallow depth of
10.0 km. This suggests that the scientific knowledge about potential hazards associated with the
fault was known, and yet life couldn’t be saved. The unfortunate loss of thousands of lives
resulted because of the tsunami, liquefaction, and earthquake shaking, which is a grim reminder
that poor infrastructure and lack of earthquake disaster preparedness are the unpleasant realities
that continue to challenge us. The occurrence of earthquakes in South and Southeast Asia is not
new and can be traced back to millions of years, and much before humans thrived on the planet.
Most of the landscape available for humans to inhabit in has formed through faulting. Faults
have built the landscape that we call home, and this intricate relationship between faulting,
earthquakes and humans beings has not been properly articulated in the historical text and
therefore, there is an immediate need to understand that faults are not just associated with
destruction of life and property but also play an important, critical, and significant role in our
survival. The fact that earthquakes are hard to predict and there is no existing mechanism to stop
the formation of faults means that we have to look for other alternatives to preserve life and
Biography. Shah Afroz is an Assistant Professor of Structural Geology at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam. His research mainly involves mapping of earthquake-causing faults in India, Pakistan, Borneo, and New Guinea. He also works on landslide and flood hazards. He believes that there is need to revamp the existing structural and geological maps of South and Southeast Asia for a better understanding of the earthquake and other related hazards in the region. Therefore, he works on the satellite imagery to improve the existing maps, and to identify the new active structures (faults and folds). He has identified some of the major fault systems in these regions, which are capable of producing earthquakes of moment magnitude Mw 7 and higher. As a National Geographic Explorer, he is working on the earthquake geology of northwest Himalaya. His field locations are in Jammu and Kashmir, NW Himalaya, where he collects evidence of past earthquake ruptures with the goal of mapping all the major earthquake sources in the region. He will then develop an earthquake scenario map, which will be used to guide authorities on how to live with earthquake hazards in the region. He is equally involved in various earthquake science related outreach activities, and which are focused on training of local people (e.g. students) to understand and prepare for potential earthquake disasters. He is also actively involved in earthquake science education through documentary movies, newspapers articles and public talks. His motivation to work as an earthquake scientist primarily involves two lenses: improvement of earthquake geology, and to translate the scientific knowledge into action on ground.