Java is one of the some 17,500 islands that make up the country of Indonesia. Most of these islands are mere flyspecks, while others are larger and more populous. Java, for example has a population (as of 2010) of some 124 million people. Indonesia also plays host to around 130 active volcanoes – 42 of them on Java. This is a volatile list.
And Java not only has an impressive concentration of volcanoes on a relatively small area (less than 49,000 square miles – the USA has almost 4 million square miles), but some of these volcanoes are some of the most infamous in the world and are responsible for thousands of deaths. And many more volcanoes (such as Tambora) are within shouting distance of Java.
One of the most infamous volcanoes in the world is Krakatoa (also known as Krakatow or Krakatau). This killer volcano is an island volcano that is located just off the western shore of Java in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.
The last recorded eruption of Krakatoa was in 1882 with a series of explosions that was heard as far away as Perth, Australia. The death toll from this disaster was more than 36,000. In addition, 297 villages were either destroyed or severely damaged. Many of the deaths involved tsunami waves that were over 40 feet high. The power of these waves lifted ships out of the water and deposited them up to a mile inland.
About 90 miles to the east of Krakatoa is the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta, which has a population of more than 13 million people.
And Krakatoa isn’t even the deadliest as far as reputation is concerned. Just around the proverbial corner from Java is Tambora. When this volcano last erupted, the ash spewed up into the stratosphere had an effect on global climate causing some of the worst famines in U.S. and European history.
Indonesia is located in what scientists call the “Ring of Fire” arcing across the Pacific Ocean. This “ring” contains about 75% of the world’s most active volcanoes, and correlates with conflicting tectonic plates. This region not only has to deal with volcanoes, but also with earthquakes, and tsunamis on a regular basis.
Indonesia therefore is a very dangerous place to live indeed.
And there are too many people with no place to go in the country that could be called safe. They are at the mercy of which volcano happens to erupt, and the prevailing winds. Although scientists are frantically working on ways to more accurately predict when volcanoes are going to erupt, they can’t do much yet to volcano-proof populated areas.
As for Java in particular, there are just too many volcanoes threatening too many people. It is a catastrophe waiting to happen.