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Sumatra Quake Longest Ever Recorded

May 20, 2005

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Photos of the Devastation
Maps of the Devastated Areas
Animation: How the Tsunami Developed
Timeline of the Disaster

The underwater earthquake that triggered the December 2004, Sumatra Tsunami was the longest earthquake ever recorded, scientists have announced. Most earthquakes last a few seconds or perhaps a minute. The Sumatra quake lasted between 500 and 600 seconds.

In addition, scientists say, the earthquake created the longest fault ever seen, a rupture in the sea floor nearly 800 miles long. Land was ripped apart as far as 50 feet.

The massive quake also released a unheard-of amount of energy, the amount that would be found in a 100-gigaton bomb. In effect, scientists say, "the whole planet shook." Sophisticated instruments recorded movement everywhere around the world.

And the disturbances in the area aren't done. On Thursday, May 19, yet another earthquake jolted the still-battered Aceh Province of Indonesia. That province, already the site of a long-running military conflict, was devastated by the tsunami. This quake registered 6.8 on the Richter scale; it was nowhere near the 9-magnitude quake that created the tsunami, but many people fled their homes nonetheless.

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