Today In History: 17 February 1996 Biak Earthquake and Tsunami Kills 108
The 1996 Biak earthquake, or the Irian Jaya earthquake, that occurred on 17 February at 14:59:30 local time near Biak Island Indonesia left at least 108 people dead, 423 injured, and 58 missing. It destroyed 5,043 houses and left 10,000 homeless with an estimated total damage of US$4.2 million.
The earthquake, which occurred on the New Guinea Trench, had a moment magnitude of 8.2 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). The run-up height of the generated Tsunami reached 7.7 m (25 ft).
Various countries and organizations provided aid and relief in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Media had reported at the time that Indonesia, one of the world’s most disaster-prone nations, was hit by a “volcano” tsunami that left a trail of death and destruction.
Indonesia straddles the so-called Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, where tectonic plates collide and a large portion of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.
The southeast Asian country has witnessed some of the deadliest tsunamis in the past centuries including the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, which ranks among the world’s most destructive natural disasters.