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April 2010



Indonesia, formally the Republic of Indonesia, includes more than 17,000 islands between the Indian Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean (2 million sq. km. or 736,000 sq. mi.). It is about three times the size of the state of Texas. With an overall population of 240.3 million people (July 2009) it is the world's fourth-most populous nation. The capital city of Jakarta has about 8.8 million people; other major cities include: Surabaya, Medan, and Bandung.

The Dutch began to colonize Indonesia in the early 17th century; Japan occupied the islands from 1942 to 1945. Indonesia declared its independence after Japan's surrender, but it required four years of intermittent negotiations, recurring hostilities, and UN mediation to transfer sovereignty in 1949. Indonesia's first free parliamentary election took place in 1999. Indonesia is now the world's third-largest democracy, the world's largest archipelagic state, and home to the world's largest Muslim population.

The climate of Indonesia ranges from tropical to hot, humid to more moderate in highlands. The terrain is mostly coastal lowlands; the larger islands have interior mountains. The natural resources of Indonesia are: petroleum, tin, natural gas, nickel, timber, bauxite, copper, fertile soils, coal, gold, and silver. Natural hazards include: occasional floods, severe droughts, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, and forest fires.

Natural disasters have devastated many parts of Indonesia over the past few years. On December 26, 2004, a 9.1 to 9.3 magnitude earthquake took place in the Indian Ocean, and the resulting tsunami killed over 130,000 people in Aceh and left more than 500,000 homeless. On March 26, 2005, an 8.7 magnitude earthquake struck between Aceh and northern Sumatra, killing 905 people and displacing tens of thousands. After much media attention on the seismic activity on Mt. Merapi in April and May 2006, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake occurred 30 miles to the southwest. It killed more than 5,000 people and left an estimated 200,000 people homeless in the Yogyakarta region. An earthquake of 7.4 struck Tasikmalaya, West Java, on September 2, 2009, killing approximately 100 people. On September 30, 2009, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck Western Sumatra.

For more information concerning earthquakes, please see the U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program site.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 3/2010;1/2010

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