The 2004 INDIAN OCEAN EARTHQUAKE occurred at 00:58:53
UTC on 26
December with the epicentre off the west coast of
Sumatra , Indonesia.
The shock had a moment magnitude of 9.1–9.3 and a maximum Mercalli
intensity of IX (Violent). The undersea megathrust earthquake was
caused when the
Indian Plate was subducted by the
Burma Plate and
triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most
landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000–280,000
people in 14 countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves
up to 30 metres (100 ft) high. It was one of the deadliest natural
disasters in recorded history .
Indonesia was the hardest-hit country,
followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.
It is the third-largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph and
had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10
minutes. It caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1
centimetre (0.4 inches) and triggered other earthquakes as far away
Alaska . Its epicentre was between
Simeulue and mainland
Indonesia. The plight of the affected people and countries prompted a
worldwide humanitarian response . In all, the worldwide community
donated more than US$14 billion (2004) in humanitarian aid. The event
is known by the scientific community as the SUMATRA–ANDAMAN
EARTHQUAKE. The resulting tsunami was given various names, including
Indian Ocean tsunami, South Asian tsunami, Indonesian
tsunami, the Christmas tsunami, and the BOXING DAY TSUNAMI.
* 1 Earthquake characteristics
* 1.2 Tectonic plates
* 1.3 Aftershocks and other earthquakes
* 1.4 Energy released
* 2.1 Signs and warnings
Aceh province, Sumatra,
* 2.3 Andaman and Nicobar Islands,
* 2.6 Mainland
* 2.10 Elsewhere in the
Death toll and casualties
* 3.1 Countries affected
* 3.2 Event in historical context
* 4 Humanitarian response
* 5 Impact
* 5.1 Economic impacts
* 5.2 Environmental impact
* 5.3 Other effects
* 6 In popular culture
* 6.2 Films and television
* 6.3 Literature
* 6.4 Museum
* 6.5 Rediscovery of
* 6.6 Music
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 External links
2004 INDIAN OCEAN TSUNAMI
Animation of tsunami caused by the earthquake showing how it
radiated from the entire length of the 1,600 km (990 mi) rupture
* Warning System
* Library damage
* 2005 Nias–
The earthquake was initially documented as moment magnitude 8.8. In
February 2005 scientists revised the estimate of the magnitude to 9.0.
Although the Pacific
Tsunami Warning Center has accepted these new
United States Geological Survey
United States Geological Survey has so far not changed
its estimate of 9.1. The most recent studies in 2006 have obtained a
magnitude of Mw 9.1–9.3.
Hiroo Kanamori of the California Institute
of Technology believes that Mw 9.2 is a good representative value for
the size of this great earthquake.
The hypocentre of the main earthquake was approximately 160 km (100
mi) off the western coast of northern Sumatra, in the Indian Ocean
just north of
Simeulue island at a depth of 30 km (19 mi) below mean
sea level (initially reported as 10 km (6.2 mi)). The northern section
Sunda megathrust ruptured over a length of 1,300 km (810 mi).
The earthquake (followed by the tsunami) was felt in
Sri Lanka and the
Maldives . Splay faults, or secondary "pop up faults", caused long,
narrow parts of the sea floor to pop up in seconds. This quickly
elevated the height and increased the speed of waves, completely
destroying the nearby Indonesian town of
Lhoknga . The epicenter
of the 2004
Indian Ocean earthquake and associated aftershocks in
French. The epicentre of the earthquake, just north of Simeulue
Indonesia lies between the Pacific
Ring of Fire along the
north-eastern islands adjacent to
New Guinea , and the Alpide belt
that runs along the south and west from
Bali , Flores
Great earthquakes such as the Sumatra-Andaman event, which are
invariably associated with megathrust events in subduction zones, have
seismic moments that can account for a significant fraction of the
global earthquake moment across century-scale time periods. Of all the
seismic moment released by earthquakes in the 100 years from 1906
through 2005, roughly one-eighth was due to the Sumatra-Andaman event.
This quake, together with the Good Friday earthquake (
Alaska , 1964)
Great Chilean earthquake
Great Chilean earthquake (1960), account for almost half of
the total moment.
Since 1900 the only earthquakes recorded with a greater magnitude
were the 1960
Great Chilean earthquake
Great Chilean earthquake (magnitude 9.5) and the 1964
Good Friday earthquake in
Prince William Sound
Prince William Sound (9.2). The only other
recorded earthquakes of magnitude 9.0 or greater were off Kamchatka ,
Russia, on 4 November 1952 (magnitude 9.0) and Tōhoku, Japan
(magnitude 9.1) in March 2011 . Each of these megathrust earthquakes
also spawned tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean. However, the death toll
from these was significantly lower, primarily because of the lower
population density along the coasts near affected areas and the much
greater distances to more populated coasts and also due to the
superior infrastructure and warning systems in MEDCs (More
Economically Developed Countries) such as Japan.
Other very large megathrust earthquakes occurred in 1868 (
Nazca Plate and
South American Plate
South American Plate ); 1827 (
Colombia , Nazca Plate
and South American Plate); 1812 (
Caribbean Plate and South
American Plate) and 1700 (western North America, Juan de Fuca Plate
North American Plate
North American Plate ). All of them are believed to be greater
than magnitude 9, but no accurate measurements were available at the
Sumatra earthquake is believed to have been a foreshock ,
predating the main event by over two years.
Plate tectonics A pie chart comparing the seismic
moment release for the largest earthquakes from 1906 to 2005 compared
to all other earthquakes for the same period
The megathrust earthquake was unusually large in geographical and
geological extent. An estimated 1,600 kilometres (1,000 mi) of fault
surface slipped (or ruptured) about 15 metres (50 ft) along the
subduction zone where the
Indian Plate slides (or subducts) under the
Burma Plate . The slip did not happen instantaneously but
took place in two phases over a period of several minutes:
* Seismographic and acoustic data indicate that the first phase
involved a rupture about 400 kilometres (250 mi) long and 100
kilometres (60 mi) wide, located 30 kilometres (19 mi) beneath the sea
bed—the largest rupture ever known to have been caused by an
earthquake. The rupture proceeded at a speed of about 2.8 kilometres
per second (1.7 miles per second) (10,000 km/h or 6,200 mph),
beginning off the coast of
Aceh and proceeding north-westerly over a
period of about 100 seconds.
* A pause of about another 100 seconds took place before the rupture
continued northwards towards the Andaman and
Nicobar Islands .
However, the northern rupture occurred more slowly than in the south,
at about 2.1 km/s (1.3 mi/s) (7,500 km/h or 4,700 mph), continuing
north for another five minutes to a plate boundary where the fault
type changes from subduction to strike-slip (the two plates slide past
one another in opposite directions).
Indian Plate is part of the great
Indo-Australian Plate , which
Indian Ocean and
Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal , and is drifting
north-east at an average of 6 centimetres per year (2.4 inches per
India Plate meets the
Burma Plate (which is considered a
portion of the great
Eurasian Plate ) at the
Sunda Trench . At this
India Plate subducts beneath the Burma Plate, which carries
Nicobar Islands , the
Andaman Islands , and northern
Sumatra . The
India Plate sinks deeper and deeper beneath the
Burma Plate until the
increasing temperature and pressure drive volatiles out of the
subducting plate. These volatiles rise into the overlying plate
causing partial melting and the formation of magma . The rising magma
intrudes into the crust above and exits the
Earth 's crust through
volcanoes in the form of a volcanic arc . The volcanic activity that
results as the
Indo-Australian Plate subducts the
Eurasian Plate has
Sunda Arc .
As well as the sideways movement between the plates, the sea floor is
estimated to have risen by several metres, displacing an estimated 30
cubic kilometres (7.2 cu mi) of water and triggering devastating
tsunami waves. The waves did not originate from a point source , as
was inaccurately depicted in some illustrations of their paths of
travel, but rather radiated outwards along the entire 1,600-kilometre
(1,000 mi) length of the rupture (acting as a line source ). This
greatly increased the geographical area over which the waves were
observed, reaching as far as Mexico, Chile, and the Arctic. The
raising of the sea floor significantly reduced the capacity of the
Indian Ocean, producing a permanent rise in the global sea level by an
estimated 0.1 millimetres (0.004 in).
AFTERSHOCKS AND OTHER EARTHQUAKES
Locations of initial earthquake and all aftershocks measuring
greater than 4.0 from 26 December 2004 to 10 January 2005. The site of
the original quake is marked by the large star in the lower right
square of the grid.
Numerous aftershocks were reported off the
Andaman Islands , the
Nicobar Islands and the region of the original epicentre in the hours
and days that followed. The magnitude 8.7 2005 Nias–Simeulue
earthquake , which originated off the coast of the Sumatran island of
Nias , is not considered an aftershock, despite its proximity to the
epicenter, and was most likely triggered by stress changes associated
with the 2004 event. The earthquake produced its own aftershocks
(some registering a magnitude of as great as 6.1) and presently ranks
as the third largest earthquake ever recorded on the moment magnitude
or Richter magnitude scale.
Other aftershocks of up to magnitude 6.6 continued to shake the
region daily for up to three or four months. As well as continuing
aftershocks, the energy released by the original earthquake continued
to make its presence felt well after the event. A week after the
earthquake, its reverberations could still be measured, providing
valuable scientific data about the Earth's interior.
Indian Ocean earthquake came just three days after a
magnitude 8.1 earthquake in an uninhabited region west of New
Auckland Islands , and north of Australia's
Macquarie Island . This is unusual, since earthquakes of magnitude 8
or more occur only about once per year on average. However, the U.S.
Geological Survey sees no evidence of a causal relationship between
The December earthquake is thought to have triggered activity in both
Leuser Mountain and
Mount Talang , volcanoes in
Aceh province along
the same range of peaks, while the 2005 Nias–
Simeulue earthquake had
sparked activity in
Lake Toba , an ancient crater in Sumatra.
The tsunami strikes
Ao Nang , Thailand.
The energy released on the Earth's surface only (ME, which is the
seismic potential for damage) by the 2004
Indian Ocean earthquake and
tsunami was estimated at 1.1×1017 joules , or 26 megatons of TNT.
This energy is equivalent to over 1,500 times that of the Hiroshima
atomic bomb , but less than that of
Tsar Bomba , the largest nuclear
weapon ever detonated; however, the total work done MW (and thus
energy) by the quake was 4.0×1022 joules (4.0×1029 ergs ), the vast
majority underground, which is over 360,000 times more than its ME,
equivalent to 9,600 gigatons of
TNT equivalent (550 million times that
of Hiroshima) or about 370 years of energy use in the United States at
2005 levels of 1.08×1020 J.
The only recorded earthquakes with a larger MW were the 1960 Chilean
and 1964 Alaskan quakes, with 2.5×1023 joules (250 ZJ) and 7.5×1022
joules (75 ZJ) respectively.
The earthquake generated a seismic oscillation of the Earth's surface
of up to 20–30 cm (8–12 in), equivalent to the effect of the tidal
forces caused by the Sun and Moon. The seismic waves of the earthquake
were felt across the planet; as far away as the U.S. state of Oklahoma
, where vertical movements of 3 mm (0.12 in) were recorded. By
February 2005, the earthquake's effects were still detectable as a 20
µm (0.02 mm; 0.0008 in) complex harmonic oscillation of the Earth's
surface, which gradually diminished and merged with the incessant free
oscillation of the
Earth more than 4 months after the earthquake.
Because of its enormous energy release and shallow rupture depth, the
earthquake generated remarkable seismic ground motions around the
globe, particularly due to huge Rayleigh (surface) elastic waves that
exceeded 1 cm (0.4 in) in vertical amplitude everywhere on Earth. The
record section plot displays vertical displacements of the Earth's
surface recorded by seismometers from the IRIS/USGS Global
Seismographic Network plotted with respect to time (since the
earthquake initiation) on the horizontal axis, and vertical
displacements of the
Earth on the vertical axis (note the 1 cm scale
bar at the bottom for scale). The seismograms are arranged vertically
by distance from the epicenter in degrees. The earliest, lower
amplitude, signal is that of the compressional (P) wave, which takes
about 22 minutes to reach the other side of the planet (the antipode ;
in this case near Ecuador). The largest amplitude signals are seismic
surface waves that reach the antipode after about 100 minutes. The
surface waves can be clearly seen to reinforce near the antipode (with
the closest seismic stations in Ecuador), and to subsequently encircle
the planet to return to the epicentral region after about 200 minutes.
A major aftershock (magnitude 7.1) can be seen at the closest stations
starting just after the 200 minute mark. The aftershock would be
considered a major earthquake under ordinary circumstances, but is
dwarfed by the mainshock. Vertical-component ground motions
recorded by the IRIS/USGS Global Seismographic Network.
The shift of mass and the massive release of energy very slightly
altered the Earth's rotation. The exact amount is not yet known, but
theoretical models suggest the earthquake shortened the length of a
day by 2.68 microseconds , due to a decrease in the oblateness of the
Earth. It also caused the
Earth to minutely "wobble" on its axis by
up to 2.5 cm (1 in) in the direction of 145° east longitude , or
perhaps by up to 5 or 6 cm (2.0 or 2.4 in). However, because of tidal
effects of the
Moon , the length of a day increases at an average of
15 µs per year, so any rotational change due to the earthquake will
be lost quickly. Similarly, the natural
Chandler wobble of the Earth,
which in some cases can be up to 15 m (50 ft), will eventually offset
the minor wobble produced by the earthquake.
There was 10 m (33 ft) movement laterally and 4–5 m (13–16 ft)
vertically along the fault line. Early speculation was that some of
the smaller islands south-west of Sumatra, which is on the Burma Plate
(the southern regions are on the
Sunda Plate ), might have moved
south-west by up to 36 m (120 ft), but more accurate data released
more than a month after the earthquake found the movement to be about
20 cm (8 in). Since movement was vertical as well as lateral, some
coastal areas may have been moved to below sea level. The Andaman and
Nicobar Islands appear to have shifted south-west by around 1.25 m (4
ft 1 in) and to have sunk by 1 m (3 ft 3 in).
In February 2005, the
Royal Navy vessel HMS Scott surveyed the seabed
around the earthquake zone, which varies in depth between 1,000 and
5,000 m (550 and 2,730 fathoms; 3,300 and 16,400 ft). The survey,
conducted using a high-resolution, multi-beam sonar system, revealed
that the earthquake had made a huge impact on the topography of the
seabed. 1,500-metre-high (5,000 ft) thrust ridges created by previous
geologic activity along the fault had collapsed, generating landslides
several kilometres wide. One such landslide consisted of a single
block of rock some 100 m high and 2 km long (300 ft by 1.25 mi). The
momentum of the water displaced by tectonic uplift had also dragged
massive slabs of rock, each weighing millions of tons, as far as 10 km
(6 mi) across the seabed. An oceanic trench several kilometres wide
was exposed in the earthquake zone.
Jason-1 satellites happened to pass over the
tsunami as it was crossing the ocean. These satellites carry radars
that measure precisely the height of the water surface; anomalies of
the order of 50 cm (20 in) were measured. Measurements from these
satellites may prove invaluable for the understanding of the
earthquake and tsunami. Unlike data from tide gauges installed on
shores, measurements obtained in the middle of the ocean can be used
for computing the parameters of the source earthquake without having
to compensate for the complex ways in which close proximity to the
coast changes the size and shape of a wave.
NOAA's tsunami travel time (TTT) map for the 2004 Indian Ocean
tsunami. The TTT map calculates the first-arrival travel times of the
tsunami, following their generation at the earthquake epicenter. Note
that the maps do not provide the height or the strength of the wave,
only the arrival times. The number tags represent hours after the
initial event. Map contours represent 1-hour intervals. Red indicates
1- to 4-hour arrival times, Yellow indicates 5- to 6-hour arrival
times, Green indicates 7- to 14-hour arrival times, and Blue indicates
15- to 21-hour arrival times. Maps were generated from earthquake
epicenters in the NGDC Global Historical
Tsunami Database using NGDC
2-Minute Gridded Global Relief Data bathymetry. The map was created
through models based on quality-controlled source data, and an
integration of many data sets together. Scale showing the size
of the tsunami waves that hit
The sudden vertical rise of the seabed by several metres during the
earthquake displaced massive volumes of water, resulting in a tsunami
that struck the coasts of the Indian Ocean. A tsunami that causes
damage far away from its source is sometimes called a teletsunami and
is much more likely to be produced by vertical motion of the seabed
than by horizontal motion.
The tsunami, like all others, behaved very differently in deep water
than in shallow water. In deep ocean water, tsunami waves form only a
low, very broad hump, barely noticeable and harmless, which generally
travels at a very high speed of 500 to 1,000 km/h (310 to 620 mph); in
shallow water near coastlines, a tsunami slows down to only tens of
kilometres per hour but, in doing so, forms large destructive waves.
Scientists investigating the damage in
Aceh found evidence that the
wave reached a height of 24 metres (80 ft) when coming ashore along
large stretches of the coastline, rising to 30 metres (100 ft) in some
areas when traveling inland.
Radar satellites recorded the heights of tsunami waves in deep water:
at two hours after the earthquake, the maximum height was 60
centimetres (2 ft). These are the first such observations ever made.
These observations could not be used to provide a warning, since the
satellites were not built for that purpose and the data took hours to
Tad Murty , vice-president of the
Tsunami Society , the
total energy of the tsunami waves was equivalent to about five
megatons of TNT (20 petajoules ), which is more than twice the total
explosive energy used during all of World War II (including the two
atomic bombs ) but still a couple of orders of magnitude less than the
energy released in the earthquake itself. In many places the waves
reached as far as 2 km (1.2 mi) inland. Play media
field in the
Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal one hour after the M=9.2 earthquake. View
to the northwest.
Because the 1,600 km (1,000 mi) fault affected by the earthquake was
in a nearly north-south orientation, the greatest strength of the
tsunami waves was in an east-west direction.
Bangladesh , which lies
at the northern end of the
Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal , had very few casualties
despite being a low-lying country relatively near the epicenter. It
also benefited from the fact that the earthquake proceeded more slowly
in the northern rupture zone, greatly reducing the energy of the water
displacements in that region.
Coasts that have a landmass between them and the tsunami's location
of origin are usually safe; however, tsunami waves can sometimes
diffract around such landmasses. Thus, the state of
Kerala was hit by
the tsunami despite being on the western coast of
India , and the
western coast of
Sri Lanka suffered substantial impacts. Distance
alone was no guarantee of safety, as
Somalia was hit harder than
Bangladesh despite being much farther away.
Because of the distances involved, the tsunami took anywhere from
fifteen minutes to seven hours to reach the coastlines. The northern
regions of the Indonesian island of
Sumatra were hit very quickly,
Sri Lanka and the east coast of
India were hit roughly 90
minutes to two hours later.
Thailand was struck about two hours later
despite being closer to the epicentre, because the tsunami traveled
more slowly in the shallow
Andaman Sea off its western coast.
The tsunami was noticed as far as
South Africa , some
8,500 km (5,300 mi) away, where a 1.5 m (5 ft) high tide surged on
shore about 16 hours after the earthquake. It took a relatively long
time to reach
Struisbaai at the southernmost point of Africa, probably
because of the broad continental shelf off
South Africa and because
the tsunami would have followed the South African coast from east to
west. The tsunami also reached
Antarctica , where tidal gauges at
Showa Base recorded oscillations of up to a metre (3 ft 3 in),
with disturbances lasting a couple of days.
Some of the tsunami's energy escaped into the Pacific Ocean, where it
produced small but measurable tsunamis along the western coasts of
North and South America, typically around 20 to 40 cm (7.9 to 15.7
in). At Manzanillo , Mexico, a 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in) crest-to-trough
tsunami was measured. As well, the tsunami was large enough to be
Vancouver , British Columbia, Canada, which puzzled many
scientists, as the tsunamis measured in some parts of South America
were larger than those measured in some parts of the Indian Ocean. It
has been theorized that the tsunamis were focused and directed at long
ranges by the mid-ocean ridges which run along the margins of the
SIGNS AND WARNINGS
Maximum recession of tsunami waters at
Kata Noi Beach ,
Thailand, prior the third—and strongest—tsunami wave (sea visible
in the right corner, the beach is at the extreme left), 10:25 am local
Despite a lag of up to several hours between the earthquake and the
impact of the tsunami, nearly all of the victims were taken completely
by surprise. There were no tsunami warning systems in the Indian Ocean
to detect tsunamis or to warn the general population living around the
Tsunami detection is not easy because while a tsunami is in
deep water it has little height and a network of sensors is needed to
detect it. Setting up the communications infrastructure to issue
timely warnings is an even bigger problem, particularly in a
relatively poor part of the world.
Tsunamis are much more frequent in the
Pacific Ocean because of
earthquakes in the "
Ring of Fire ", and an effective tsunami warning
system has long been in place there. Although the extreme western edge
Ring of Fire extends into the
Indian Ocean (the point where the
earthquake struck), no warning system exists in that ocean. Tsunamis
there are relatively rare despite earthquakes being relatively
frequent in Indonesia. The last major tsunami was caused by the
Krakatoa eruption of 1883. It should be noted that not every
earthquake produces large tsunamis; on 28 March 2005, a magnitude 8.7
earthquake hit roughly the same area of the
Indian Ocean but did not
result in a major tsunami.
The first warning sign of a possible tsunami is the earthquake
itself. However, tsunamis can strike thousands of kilometres away
where the earthquake is only felt weakly or not at all. Also, in the
minutes preceding a tsunami strike, the sea often recedes temporarily
from the coast, which was observed on the eastern side of the rupture
zone of the earthquake such as around the coastlines of
Phuket island and
Khao Lak area in Thailand,
Penang island of Malaysia
Andaman and Nicobar islands
Andaman and Nicobar islands . Around the Indian Ocean, this
rare sight reportedly induced people, especially children, to visit
the coast to investigate and collect stranded fish on as much as 2.5
km (1.6 mi) of exposed beach, with fatal results. However, not all
tsunamis cause this "disappearing sea" effect. In some cases, there
are no warning signs at all: the sea will suddenly swell without
retreating, surprising many people and giving them little time to
Reportedly, scuba divers near the abundant coral reefs in Thailand
Maldives were caught off guard by violent, swirling underwater
currents . The divers described the experience like being in a
Coral reef animals such as fish were also absent as
the tsunami passed by.
One of the few coastal areas to evacuate ahead of the tsunami was on
the Indonesian island of
Simeulue , very close to the epicentre.
Island folklore recounted an earthquake and tsunami in 1907, and the
islanders fled to inland hills after the initial shaking and before
the tsunami struck. These tales and oral folklore from previous
generations may have helped the survival of the inhabitants. On
Maikhao beach in northern
Phuket , Thailand, a 10-year-old British
Tilly Smith had studied tsunami in geography at school
and recognised the warning signs of the receding ocean and frothing
bubbles. She and her parents warned others on the beach, which was
John Chroston , a biology teacher from Scotland,
also recognised the signs at Kamala Bay north of Phuket, taking a
busload of vacationers and locals to safety on higher ground.
Anthropologists had initially expected the aboriginal population of
Andaman Islands to be badly affected by the tsunami and even
feared the already depopulated Onge tribe could have been wiped out.
Many of the aboriginal tribes evacuated and suffered fewer casualties.
Oral traditions developed from previous earthquakes helped the
aboriginal tribes escape the tsunami. For example, the folklore of the
Onges talks of "huge shaking of ground followed by high wall of
water". Almost all of the
Onge people seemed to have survived the
ACEH PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA
A two-story house damaged by the tsunami showing the tsunami
inundation height in downtown Banda Aceh.
The tsunami first struck the west and north coasts of northern
Indonesia particularly in
Aceh province in the fresh
morning. At Ulee Lheue in Banda
Aceh , a survivor described three
waves, with the first wave rising only to the foundation of the
buildings. This was followed by a large withdrawal of the sea before
the second and third waves hit. The tsunami reached shore 15–20
minutes after the earthquake, and the second was bigger than the
first. This is the same as that in
Khao Lak and
Phuket Island in
Thailand . A local resident living at Banda
Aceh states that
the giant wave was 'higher than my house'. Another resident living 2
km (1.2 mi) near the coast on the outskirt of the city informed that
the tsunami was 'like a wall, very black' in colour and had a
'distinct sound' getting louder as it nears the coast.
The maximum runup height of the tsunami was measured at a hill
Leupung , located on the west coast of the
northern tip of
Sumatra , near Banda Aceh, and reached more than 30 m
The tsunami heights in Sumatra:
• 15–30 m (49 ft-98 ft) on the west coast of Aceh.
• 6–12 m (19.7 ft-39.4 ft) on the Banda
• 6 m (19.7 ft) on the Krueng Raya coast ( 3 oil tanks floated out)
• 5 m (16.4 ft) on the
• 3–6 m (9.8 ft-19.7 ft) on the north coast of Weh Island
directly facing the tsunami source.
• 3 m (9.8 ft) on the opposite side of the coast of Weh Island
facing the tsunami.
The tsunami height on the Banda
Aceh coast is lower than half of that
on the west coast . Even within the Banda
Aceh coast, the tsunami
height was reduced by half from 12 m (39.4 ft) at Ulee Lheue to 6 m
(19.7 ft) a further 8 km (4.97 miles) to the northeast. The inundation
was observed to lie 3–4 km (1.86–2.49 miles) inland throughout the
city. Flow depths over the ground were observed to be over 9 m (29.5
ft) in the seaside section of Ulee Lheue and tapered landward. The
level of destruction was more extreme on the northwestern flank of the
city in the areas immediately inland of the aquaculture ponds. The
area toward the sea was wiped clean of nearly every structure, while
closer to the river—dense construction in a commercial district
showed the effects of severe flooding. The flow depth was just at the
level of the second floor, and there were large amounts of debris
piled along the streets and in the ground-floor storefronts. One of
the reasons seems to be that there is an archipelago between Lhoknga
and Banda Aceh.Within 2–3 km (1.24–1.86 miles) from the shoreline,
houses, except for strongly-built reinforced concrete ones with brick
walls, which seemed to have been partially damaged by the earthquake
before the tsunami attack, were completely swept away or destroyed by
Three small islands: Weh, Breuh, and Deudap, lie just north of the
capital city. The tsunami effects on two of the islands Breuh and
Deudap were extreme, with a runup of 10–20 m (33–66 ft) on the
west-facing shores. Coastal villages were completely destroyed by the
tsunami waves. On
Pulau Weh , however, the island experienced strong
surges in the port of Sabang , yet there was little damage with a
reported runup values of 3–5 m (9.8–16.4 ft), which was most
likely shadowed from the direct tsunami attack by the islands to the
Lhoknga , a town in
Aceh Besar Regency ,
Indonesia , located on the western side of the island of Sumatra, 13
km (8.08 miles) southwest of Banda
Aceh was completely flattened and
destroyed by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, where its population
dwindled from 7,500 to 400. The tsunami waves were almost 30 m (98.4
ft) high. Eyewitnesses reported 10 to 12 waves, the second and third
ones being the highest. The sea receded (drawback) 10 minutes after
the earthquake and the first wave came rapidly landward as a turbulent
flow (flood) with depths ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 m (1.64 ft-8.20 ft)
high. The second and third waves was 15–30 m (49.2 ft-98.4 ft) high
at the coast, described having an appearance to a surf wave
(cobra-shaped) but 'taller than the coconut trees' and was 'like a
mountain'. Consequently, the tsunami also stranded cargo ships and
barges and destroyed a cement factory near the Lampuuk coast.
Moreover, surveyed areas by scientists show runup heights over 20 m
(65.6 ft) on the northwest coast of
Sumatra in the
Aceh province with
a maximum runup of 51 m (167.3 ft).
Meulaboh based on survivor testimonies, tsunami arrived after the
sea receded about 500 m (0.31 miles), followed by an advancing small
tsunami. The second and third destructive waves arrived later, which
exceeded the height of the coconut trees. The inundation distance is
about 5 km (3.1 miles).
Such high and fast waves arising from the epicentre by a megathrust
earthquake were later found to be due to splay faults, secondary
faults arising due to cracking of the sea floor to jut upwards in
seconds, causing waves' speed and height to increase. A large slip of
30 m (98.4 ft) was estimated on the subfault located off the west
Aceh province. Another factor is subsidence at Banda Aceh
(20–60 cm), Peukan Bada (>20 cm), Lhok Nga and
Leupung (>1.5 m).
An overturned cement carrier, the Sinar Andalas caused by the
Other towns on Aceh's west coast hit by the disaster included
Leupung, Lhokruet, Lamno, Patek,
Calang , Teunom, and the island of
Simeulue . Affected or destroyed towns on the region's north and east
coast were Pidie Regency, Samalanga, Panteraja and Lhokseumawe.
The very high fatality in the area is mainly due to the
unpreparedness of the population from such an event. Helicopter survey
showed entire settlements virtually destroyed with destruction miles
inland with only some mosques left standing, which provided refuge for
the people from the tsunami.
ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS, INDIA
The major islands affected by the tsunami were in the South, Middle,
and North Andaman Islands. The tsunami arrived in the Andaman and
Nicobar Islands minutes after the earthquake, and it caused extensive
devastation to the islands' environment. Specifically, the Andaman
Islands were moderately affected while the island of Little Andaman
Nicobar Islands were severely affected by the tsunami. Waves
nearly 3-storeys high, devastated the Indian Air Force base near
Malacca. The worst affected island in the Andaman "> Fishermen's
boat stranded in Kallady,
Batticaloa , Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka tsunami height survey:
• 9 m (29.5 Ft) at
• 6 m (19.7 ft) at
• 4.8 m (15.7 ft) around the
• 8.71 m (28.6 ft) at Nonagama.
• 4.9 m (16.1 ft) at
• 4 m (13.1 ft) at Dodundawa.
• 4.7 m (15.4 ft) at Ambalangoda.
• 4.7 m (15.4 ft) at
Hikkaduwa Fishery Harbour.
• 10 m (33 ft) at Kahawa.
• 4.8 m (15.7 ft) at North
• 6 m (19.7 ft) at Paiyagala.
The Sumudra Devi, a passenger train out of
Colombo , was derailed and
overturned by the tsunami. The tsunami caused the 2004 Sri Lanka
tsunami-rail disaster which took at least 1,700 lives, making it the
largest single rail disaster in world history by death toll. Estimates
based on the state of the shoreline and a high-water mark on a nearby
building place the tsunami 7.5–9 m (24.6 ft to 29.5 ft) above sea
level and 2–3 m (6.6 ft to 9.8 ft) higher than the top of the train.
In Sri Lanka, the civilian casualties were second only to those in
Indonesia . Reports vary on the number of deaths since many people are
still missing and the country lacks adequate communications. The
eastern shores of
Sri Lanka faced the hardest impact since they were
facing the epicenter of the earthquake. The southwestern shores were
hit later, but the death toll was just as severe. The southwestern
shores are a hotspot for tourists as well as the fishing economy.
Tourism and fishing industries created high population densities along
The coastal lifestyle of people and degradation of the natural
Sri Lanka contributed to the high death tolls. In
addition to the high number of fatalities, approximately 90,000
buildings were destroyed. Houses were easily destroyed since they were
built mostly from wood.
The tsunami hit the southwest coast of southern
Thailand , which was
about 500 km (310.69 miles) from the epicenter. The region is
prominent with tourists internationally. Since the tsunami hit during
high tide, its damage was severe. Approximately 5,400 people were
killed and 3,100 people were reported missing in Thailand. The places
where the tsunami struck were Khao Lak,
Phuket Island, the Phi Phi
Islands , Koh Racha Yai, Koh Lanta Yai and
Ao Nang of
Krabi province ,
offshore archipelagos like the
Surin Islands , the
Similan Islands ,
and coastal areas of
Phang Nga , Trang and Krabi
The country experienced the largest tsunami runup height of any
location outside of
Sumatra , which occurred at
Khao Lak and the areas
of Takua Pa district that are facing the Andaman Sea.The tsunami
• 6–10 m (19.7 ft-32.8 ft) in Khao Lak.
• 3–6 m (9.84 ft-19.7 ft) along the west coast of
• 3 m (9.84 ft) along the south coast of
• 2 m (6.56 ft) along the east coast of
• 4–6 m (13.12 ft-19.7 ft) on the Phi Phi Islands.
• 19.6 m (64.3 ft) at Ban Thung Dap.
• 5 m (16.4 ft) at Ramson.
• 6.8 m (22.3 ft) at Ban Thale Nok.
• 5 m (16.4 ft) at Hat Praphat (
Ranong Coastal Resources Research
• 6.3 m (20.7 ft) at Thai Muang district.
• 6.8 m (22.3 ft) at Rai Dan.
The province of Phang-Nga was the most heavily affected area in
Thailand by the gigantic tsunami. The northern part of Phang-Nga
Province is a rural area with fishery and agricultural villages while
the central part has several resort hotels.
Khao Lak is located in the
south of Phang-Nga Province with many luxurious hotels, popular to
foreign tourists, especially from
Khao Lak was hit by the
gigantic tsunami after 10:00 a.m. and the death toll in the area was
the largest in Thailand. Many local villagers and tourists lost their
lives during the event. A maximum inundation of approximately 2 km
(1.2 miles) and the inundated depths were 4–7 m (13.12 ft-23 ft) in
Khao Lak. Surveys conducted show that the tsunami inundated the third
floor of a resort hotel. The tsunami heights in
Khao Lak were much
Phuket Island. The reason for the difference seems to have
been caused by the local bathymetry off Khao Lak. According to some
interviews with local residents and affected tourists, the leading
wave produced an initial depression, called a tsunami drawback or
'disappearing sea' effect and the second wave was largest. The
highest recorded tsunami runup measured was at 19.6 m (64.3 ft) at Ban
Thung Dap, located on the southwest tip of
Ko Phra Thong Island and
the second highest at 15.8 m (51.8 ft) at Ban Nam Kim. Thai navy
boat 813 (police boat) stranded almost 2 km inland by the Khao Lak
Phuket island, many of its west coast beaches were affected. At
Patong Beach – a tourist mecca – the tsunami heights were 5–6 m
(16.4 ft-19.7 ft) and the inundated depth was about 2 m (6.6 ft). The
tsunami heights became lower from the west coast, the south coast to
the east coast of the island. On Karon beach on the west coast, the
coastal road was built higher than the shore and it acted as a
seawall, protecting a hotel which was behind it. On the east coast of
Phuket Island, which was not facing the tsunami source, the tsunami
height was about 2 m (6.6 ft). In one river mouth, many boats were
damaged. The tsunami propagated anticlockwise around
Phuket Island, as
was the case at
Okushiri Island in the
1993 Hokkaido earthquake .
According to some interviews with the people, the leading wave
produced an initial depression and the second wave was the largest.
Tsunami wave striking
Phi Phi Islands are a group of small islands that were affected
by the tsunami. The north bay of Phi Phi Don Island opens to the
northwest, thus it faced in the direction that the tsunami came from.
The measured tsunami height on this beach was 5.8 m (19.02 ft).
According to some eyewitnesses accounts, the tsunami came from the
north and south, and totally washed the central area away. The ground
level here was about 2 m (6.6 ft) above sea level, but there were many
cottages and hotels. Therefore, the tsunami waves from the north and
south destroyed the area, the south bay opens to the southeast. It
faces in the opposite direction to which the tsunami was propagated.
Further, Phi Phi Le Island shields the port of Phi Phi Don Island. The
measured tsunami height, however, was 4.6 m (15.1 ft) in the port. It
indicated that the tsunami propagated around the islands.
Many amateur videos recorded by tourists and locals of the tsunami at
Thailand were televised popularly in the media.
The tsunami arrived in the states of
Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu
along the southeast coast of the Indian mainland shortly after 9:00
a.m. At least two hours later, it arrived in the state of
the southwest coast. Tamil Nadu, the union territory of Pondicherry
Kerala were extensively damaged, while
Andhra Pradesh sustained
moderate damage. There were two to five waves of varying height that
coincided with the local high tide in some areas. Tsunami
Chennai , Tamil Nadu, India.
The tsunami run-up was only 1.6 m (5.2 ft) in areas in the state of
Tamil Nadu that were shielded by the island of
Sri Lanka , but was
4–5 m (13.1 ft-16.4 ft) in coastal districts such as
Tamil Nadu that were directly across from
Sumatra , which happen to be
the highest on the Indian mainland. On the western coast, the runup
elevations were 4.5 m (14.8 ft) at
Kanyakumari District in Tamil Nadu,
and 3.4 m (11.2 ft) each at
Ernakulam Districts in Kerala.
The duration between the waves also varied from about 15 minutes to
about 90 minutes. Additionally, the tsunami varies in height when
it struck the Indian coast, ranging from 2–10 m (6.6 ft-33 ft) on
average based on survivor's accounts.
The tsunami runup height measured in mainland
India by Ministry of
• 3.4 m (11.2 ft) at Kerala, inundation distance of 0.5–1.5 km
(0.31–0.62 miles) with 250 km (155.3 miles) of coastline affected.
• 4.5 m (14.8 ft) at southern coastline of Tamil Nadu, inundation
distance of 0.2–2.0 km (0.12–1.24 miles) with 100 km (62.1 miles)
of coast affected.
• 5 m (16.4 ft) at eastern coastline of
Tamil Nadu facing tsunami
source, inundation distance of 0.4–1.5 km (0.25–0.93 miles) with
800 km (497 miles) of coastline affected.
• 4 m (13.1 ft) at Pondicherry, inundation distance of 0.2–2.0 km
(0.12–1.24 miles) with 25 km (15.5 miles) of coast affected.
• 2.2 m (7.22 ft) at Andhra Pradesh, inundation distance of
0.2–1.0 km (0.12–0.62 miles) with 985 km (612 miles) of coast.
The tsunami traveled 2.5 km (1.55 miles) at its maximum inland at
Karaikal city. The inundation distance varied between 100–500 m
(0.062 miles-0.311 miles) in most areas, except at river mouths, where
it was more than 1 km (0.62 miles). The inundation distance varied
with topology and vegetation. Areas with dense coconut groves or
mangroves had much smaller inundation distances, and those with river
mouths or backwaters saw much larger inundation distances.Presence of
seawalls at the
Kerala coast and some of
Tamil Nadu coast helped to
reduce the impact of the waves. However, when the seawalls were made
of loose stones, the stones were displaced and carried a few metres
The state of
Kerala experienced tsunami-related damage in three
Alappuzha , and
Kollam , which are
densely populated with villagers, due to diffraction of the waves
Sri Lanka . The southernmost district of
however, escaped damage, possibly due to the wide turn of the
diffracted waves at the peninsular tip. Major damage occurred in two
narrow strips of land bound on the west by the
Arabian Sea and on the
east by a network of backwaters –
Kerala backwaters . The waves
receded before the first tsunami with the highest fatality reported
from the densely populated Alappad panchayat (including the villages
of Cheriya Azhikkal and Azhikkal) at
Kollam district, caused by a 4 m
(13.1 ft) tsunami.
The worst affected area in
Tamil Nadu was
Nagapattinam district, with
a reported 6,051 fatalities caused by a 5 m (16.4 ft) tsunami,
followed by Cuddalore district, with many villages destroyed. The 13
km (8.1 miles) Marina
Chennai was battered by the tsunami
which swept across the beach taking morning walkers unaware. Besides
that, a 10 m (33 ft) black muddy tsunami reportedly ravaged the city
Karaikal , where 492 lives were lost. The city of
protected by seawalls relatively escaped unscathed in comparison to
other areas in the state.
At the same time, many villages from many districts at the state of
Andhra Pradesh were destroyed. In the Krishna district, the tsunami
created havoc in Manginapudi and on Machalipattanam Beach, which came
like a running wall at the latter. The most affected was Prakasham
District, recording 35 deaths, with maximum damage at Singraikonda, a
beautiful beach hamlet.
Given the enormous power of the tsunami, the fishing industry
suffered the greatest. Moreover, the cost of damage in the transport
sector was reported in the tens of thousands. Many buildings and
infrastructures near the coast were obliterated.
Conclusively, the tsunami effects varied greatly across different
parts of the coast according to the number of waves experienced, the
inundation distance and height of waves, and the population density of
the area, as well as topological and geographical features that made
some areas more vulnerable than others. Besides these factors, the
number of lives lost was influenced by exposure to previous disasters
and the local disaster management capability. Most of the people
killed were members of the fishing community and, in some cases such
Chennai and Velankanni in
Nagapattinam , they were
visitors on the beach.
The tsunami of 26 December 2004 severely affected the
Maldives at a
distance of 2,500 km (1553.4 miles) from the epicenter of the
magnitude 9.0 earthquake. Identically to
Sri Lanka , survivors
reported three waves with the second wave being the most powerful.
Being rich in coral reefs, the
Maldives provides an opportunity for
scientists to assess the impact of a tsunami on coral atolls . The
significantly lower tsunami impact on the
Maldives compared to Sri
Lanka is largely due to the topography and bathymetry of the atoll
chain with offshore coral reefs, deep channels separating individual
atolls and its arrival within low tide which decreased the power of
the tsunami. After the tsunami, there were some concern that the
country might be totally submerged and become uninhabitable. However,
this was proven untrue.
The largest tsunami wave measured was 4 m (13.1 ft) at Vilufushi
Island (Thaa Atoll). The tsunami arrived approximately 2 hours after
the earthquake.The greatest tsunami inundation occurred at North Male
Atoll, Male island at 250 m (0.155 miles) along the streets.
Maldives tsunami wave analysis:
• 1.3 m-2.4 m (4.27 ft-7.87 ft) at North Male Atoll, Male Island.
• 2 m (6.56 ft) at North Male Atoll, Huhule Island.
• 1.7 m-2.8 m (5.58 ft-9.2 ft) at South Male Atoll, Embudhu
• 2.5 m-3.3 m (8.2 ft-10.8 ft) at Laamu Atoll, Fonadhoo Island.
• 2.2 m-2.9 m (7.2 ft-9.51 ft) at Laamu Atoll, Gan Island.
• 2.3 m-3 m (7.5 ft-9.8 ft) at North Male Atoll, Dhiffushi Island.
• 2.2 m-2.4 m (7.2 ft-7.87 ft) at North Male Atoll, Huraa Island.
• more than 1.5 m (4.92 ft) at North Male Atoll, Kuda Huraa Island.
Myanmar , the tsunami caused only moderate damage, which arrived
between 2 and 5.5 hours after the earthquake. Although the country's
Andaman Sea coastline lies at the proximity of the rupture
zone, there were smaller tsunamis than the neighboring Thai coast,
probably because the main tsunami source did not extend to the Andaman
Islands. Another factor is that some coasts of
Taninthayi Division was
protected by offshore islands of the Myeik
Archipelago . Based on
scientific surveys from Ayeyarwaddy Delta through Taninthayi Division,
it is revealed that tsunami heights along the
Myanmar coast were
between 0.4–2.9 m (1.3–9.5 ft). Eyewitnesses often compared the
December tsunami heights with the “rainy season high tide”;
although at most locations, the tsunami height was similar or smaller
than the “rainy season high tide” level.
Tsunami survey heights:
• 0.6 m-2.3 m (1.97 ft-7.54 ft) around the Ayeyarwady delta.
• 0.9 m-2.9 m (2.95 ft-9.5 ft) at
• 0.7 m-2.2 m (2.3 ft-7.2 ft) around Myeik .
• 0.4 m-2.6 m (1.3 ft-8.5 ft) around
Interviews with local people indicate that they did not feel the
Taninthayi Division or in Ayeyarwaddy Delta. The 71
casualties can be attributed to poor housing infrastructure and
additionally, the fact that the coastal residents in the surveyed
areas live on flat land along the coast, especially in the Ayeyarwaddy
Delta, and that there is no higher ground to evacuate. The tsunami
heights from the 2004 December earthquake were not more than 3 m (9.8
ft) along the
Myanmar coast, the amplitudes are slightly large off the
Ayeyarwaddy Delta, probably because the shallow delta cause a
concentration in tsunami energy.
The tsunami spawned from the megathrust earthquake near Sumatra
travelled 5000 km (3106.86 miles) west across the open ocean and
ravaged the East African country of
Somalia . Around 289 fatalities
were reported in the
Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa , drowned by four tsunami waves.
The hardest hit was a 650 km (403.9 miles) stretch of the Somalia
coastline between Garacad (
Mudug region) and Xaafuun (
which forms part of the
Puntland Province. Most of the victims were
reported along the low-lying Xaafuun Peninsula. The
Puntland coast in
Somalia was by far the area hardest hit by the waves to the
west of the Indian subcontinent. The waves arrived around noon local
Consequently, tsunami runup heights vary from 5 m (16.4 ft) to 9 m
(29.5 ft) with inundation distances varying from 44 m (0.027 miles) to
704 m (0.44 miles). The maximum runup height of almost 9 m (29.5 ft)
was recorded in Bandarbeyla. An even higher runup point was measured
on a cliff near the town of Eyl, solely on an eyewitness account.
The highest death toll was in Xaafuun, also known as
Hafun , with 19
bodies and 160 people presumed missing out of its 5000 inhabitants,
which amounts to the highest number of casualties in a single African
town and the largest tsunami death toll in a single town to the west
Indian subcontinent . In Xaafuun, small drawbacks were observed
before the third and most powerful tsunami flood the town.
Numerous fishing boats and buildings were also devastated.
ELSEWHERE IN THE INDIAN OCEAN
The tsunami also reached
Malaysia , mainly on the northern states
Penang and on offshore islands such as
Langkawi island . Peninsular
Malaysia was shielded by the full force
of the tsunami due to the protection offered by the island of Sumatra
, which lies just off the western coast.
Tsunami flooding the
streets of Tanjung Tokong, George Town ,
Bangladesh , located on the northern
Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal escaped major
damage and deaths because the water displaced by the strike-slip fault
was relatively little on the northern section of the rupture zone,
which ruptured slowly. In
Yemen , the tsunami killed 2 people with a
maximum runup of 2 m (6.6 ft).
The tsunami's immense power was even detected as far away as
where rough seas were reported, specifically on the eastern and
southern coasts that faces the
Indian Ocean . Countries apart from
Somalia that were majorly affected with deaths include South Africa
(the furthest)- 2,
Kenya - 1, The
Seychelles - 3 and
Tanzania - 10.
DEATH TOLL AND CASUALTIES
Beach after the tsunami.
According to the
U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Geological Survey a total of 227,898 people
died (see table below for details). Measured in lives lost, this is
one of the ten worst earthquakes in recorded history , as well as the
single worst tsunami in history.
Indonesia was the worst affected
area, with most death toll estimates at around 170,000. However,
another report by
Siti Fadilah Supari , the Indonesian Minister of
Health at the time, estimated the death total to be as high as 220,000
Indonesia alone, giving a total of 280,000 fatalities.
The tsunami caused serious damage and deaths as far as the east coast
of Africa, with the farthest recorded death due to the tsunami
occurring at Rooi Els in South Africa, 8,000 km (5,000 mi) away from
the epicentre. In total, eight people in
South Africa died due to
abnormally high sea levels and waves.
Relief agencies reported that one-third of the dead appeared to be
children. This was a result of the high proportion of children in the
populations of many of the affected regions and because children were
the least able to resist being overcome by the surging waters. Oxfam
went on to report that as many as four times more women than men were
killed in some regions because they were waiting on the beach for the
fishermen to return and looking after their children in the houses.
In addition to the large number of local residents, up to 9,000
foreign tourists (mostly Europeans) enjoying the peak holiday travel
season were among the dead or missing, especially people from the
Nordic countries . The European nation hardest hit may have been
Sweden , whose death toll was 543.
Germany was close behind with 539
Patong Beach ,
Thailand , after the tsunami
States of emergency were declared in
Sri Lanka , Indonesia, and the
Maldives . The United Nations estimated at the outset that the relief
operation would be the costliest in human history. Then-UN
Kofi Annan stated that reconstruction would probably
take between five and ten years. Governments and non-governmental
organisations feared that the final death toll might double as a
result of diseases, prompting a massive humanitarian response . In the
end, this fear did not materialise.
For purposes of establishing timelines of local events, the time
zones of affected areas are: UTC+3: (Kenya, Madagascar, Somalia,
Tanzania); UTC+4: (Mauritius, Réunion, Seychelles); UTC+5:
(Maldives); UTC+5:30: (India, Sri Lanka); UTC+6: (Bangladesh);
UTC+6:30: (Cocos Islands, Myanmar); UTC+7: (
Thailand); UTC+8: (Malaysia, Singapore). Since the earthquake occurred
UTC , add the above offsets to find the local time of the
deaths occurred CONFIRMED
SRI LANKA 2
1 Includes those reported under 'Confirmed'. If no separate estimates
are available, the number in this column is the same as reported under
2 Does not include approximately 19,000 missing people initially
declared by Tamil Tiger authorities from regions under their control.
3 Data includes at least 2,464 foreigners.
4 Does not include South African citizens who died outside of South
Africa (e.g., tourists in Thailand). For more information on those
deaths, see Countries affected by the 2004
Indian Ocean earthquake#S -
Countries most affected by the tsunami, with the earthquake's
epicenter. Main article: Countries affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean
The earthquake and resulting tsunami affected many countries in
Southeast Asia and beyond, including
Sri Lanka ,
Thailand , the
Malaysia , Seychelles
and others. Many other countries, especially in Europe, had large
numbers of citizens traveling in the region on holiday.
543 citizens in the disaster, while
Germany had 539 identified
EVENT IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT
See also: Library damage resulting from the 2004 Indian Ocean
The last major tsunami in the
Indian Ocean was about A.D. 1400. In
2008, a team of scientists working on Phra Thong, a barrier island
along the hard-hit west coast of
Thailand , reported evidence of at
least three previous major tsunamis in the preceding 2,800 years, the
most recent from about 700 years ago. A second team found similar
evidence of previous tsunamis in
Aceh , a province at the northern tip
Sumatra ; radiocarbon dating of bark fragments in soil below the
second sand layer led the scientists to estimate that the most recent
predecessor to the 2004 tsunami probably occurred between A.D. 1300
The 2004 earthquake and tsunami combined are the world\'s deadliest
natural disaster since the 1976
Tangshan earthquake . The earthquake
was the third most powerful earthquake recorded since 1900. The
deadliest known earthquake in history occurred in 1556 in Shaanxi,
China , with an estimated death toll of 830,000, though figures from
this period may not be as reliable.
The 2004 tsunami is the deadliest in recorded history . Before 2004,
the tsunami created in both Indian and
Pacific Ocean waters by the
1883 eruption of
Krakatoa , thought to have resulted in anywhere from
36,000 to 120,000 deaths, had probably been the deadliest in the
region. In 1782 about 40,000 people are thought to have been killed by
a tsunami (or a cyclone) in the
South China Sea
South China Sea . The most deadly
tsunami before 2004 was Italy's
1908 Messina earthquake on the
Mediterranean Sea where the earthquake and tsunami killed about
Main article: Humanitarian response to the 2004 Indian Ocean
earthquake German tsunami relief mission team members of AGSEP
Mullaitivu in Northern Province,
Sri Lanka in
January 2005 Memorial dedicated to victims of the tsunami,
Batticaloa , Eastern Province,
A great deal of humanitarian aid was needed because of widespread
damage of the infrastructure, shortages of food and water, and
economic damage. Epidemics were of special concern due to the high
population density and tropical climate of the affected areas. The
main concern of humanitarian and government agencies was to provide
sanitation facilities and fresh drinking water to contain the spread
of diseases such as cholera , diphtheria , dysentery , typhoid and
hepatitis A and B .
There was also a great concern that the death toll could increase as
disease and hunger spread. However, because of the initial quick
response, this was minimized.
In the days following the tsunami, significant effort was spent in
burying bodies hurriedly due to fear of disease spreading. However,
the public health risks may have been exaggerated, and therefore this
may not have been the best way to allocate resources. The World Food
Programme provided food aid to more than 1.3 million people affected
by the tsunami. Further information:
Health risks from dead bodies
Nations all over the world provided over US$14 billion in aid for
damaged regions, with the governments of Australia pledging US$819.9
million (including a US$760.6-million aid package for Indonesia),
Germany offering US$660 million, Japan offering US$500 million, Canada
offering US$343 million, Norway and the
Netherlands offering both
US$183 million, the United States offering US$35 million initially
(increased to US$350 million), and the
World Bank offering US$250
million. Also Italy offered US$95 million, increased later to US$113
million of which US$42 million was donated by the population using the
SMS system According to
USAID , the US has pledged additional funds
in long-term U.S. support to help the tsunami victims rebuild their
lives. On 9 February 2005, President Bush asked Congress to increase
the U.S. commitment to a total of US$950 million. Officials estimated
that billions of dollars would be needed. Bush also asked his father,
former President George H. W. Bush, and former President Bill Clinton
to lead a U.S. effort to provide private aid to the tsunami victims.
In mid-March the
Asian Development Bank reported that over US$4
billion in aid promised by governments was behind schedule. Sri Lanka
reported that it had received no foreign government aid, while foreign
individuals had been generous. Many charities were given considerable
donations from the public. For example, in the
United Kingdom the
public donated roughly £330,000,000 sterling (nearly US$600,000,000).
This considerably outweighed the donation by the government and came
to an average of about £5.50 (US$10) donated by every citizen.
In August 2006, fifteen local aid staff working on post-tsunami
rebuilding were found executed in northeast
Sri Lanka after heavy
fighting, the main umbrella body for aid agencies in the country said.
There had been reports and rumors that the local aid workers had been
The level of damage to the economy resulting from the tsunami depends
on the scale examined. While local economies were devastated, the
overall impact to the national economies was minor. The two main
occupations affected by the tsunami were fishing and tourism. The
impact on coastal fishing communities and the people living there,
some of the poorest in the region, has been devastating with high
losses of income earners as well as boats and fishing gear. In Sri
Lanka artisanal fishery, where the use of fish baskets, fishing traps,
and spears are commonly used, is an important source of fish for local
markets; industrial fishery is the major economic activity, providing
direct employment to about 250,000 people. In recent years the fishery
industry has emerged as a dynamic export-oriented sector, generating
substantial foreign exchange earnings. Preliminary estimates indicate
that 66% of the fishing fleet and industrial infrastructure in coastal
regions have been destroyed by the wave surges, which will have
adverse economic effects both at local and national levels.
While the tsunami destroyed many of the boats vital to Sri Lanka's
fishing industry, it also created demand for fiberglass reinforced
plastic catamarans in boatyards of
Tamil Nadu . Since over 51,000
vessels were lost to the tsunami, the industry boomed. However, the
huge demand has led to lower quality in the process, and some
important materials were sacrificed to cut prices for those who were
impoverished by the tsunami.
But some economists believe that damage to the affected national
economies will be minor because losses in the tourism and fishing
industries are a relatively small percentage of the GDP. However,
others caution that damage to infrastructure is an overriding factor.
In some areas drinking water supplies and farm fields may have been
contaminated for years by salt water from the ocean. Even though only
coastal regions were directly affected by the waters of the tsunami,
the indirect effects have spread to inland provinces as well. Since
the media coverage of the event was so extensive, many tourists
cancelled vacations and trips to that part of the world, even though
their travel destinations may not have been affected. This ripple
effect could especially be felt in the inland provinces of Thailand,
such as Krabi, which acted like a starting point for many other
tourist destinations in Thailand.
Both the earthquake and the tsunami may have affected shipping in the
Malacca Straits , which separate
Malaysia and the Indonesian island of
Sumatra, by changing the depth of the seabed and by disturbing
navigational buoys and old shipwrecks. In one area of the Strait,
water depths were previously up to 4,000 feet (1,200 m), and are now
only 100 feet (30 m) in some areas, making shipping impossible and
dangerous. These problems also made the delivery of relief aid more
challenging. Compiling new navigational charts may take months or
years. However, officials hope that piracy in the region will drop off
as a result of the tsunami.
Countries in the region appealed to tourists to return, pointing out
that most tourist infrastructure is undamaged. However, tourists were
reluctant to do so for psychological reasons. Even beach resorts in
Thailand which were completely untouched by the tsunami were
hit by cancellations.
Khao Lak , North of
Images and SRTM Elevation Model.
Beyond the heavy toll on human lives, the
Indian Ocean earthquake has
caused an enormous environmental impact that will affect the region
for many years to come. It has been reported that severe damage has
been inflicted on ecosystems such as mangroves , coral reefs ,
forests, coastal wetlands , vegetation, sand dunes and rock
formations, animal and plant biodiversity and groundwater . In
addition, the spread of solid and liquid waste and industrial
chemicals, water pollution and the destruction of sewage collectors
and treatment plants threaten the environment even further, in untold
ways. The environmental impact will take a long time and significant
resources to assess.
According to specialists, the main effect is being caused by
poisoning of the freshwater supplies and of the soil by saltwater
infiltration and a deposit of a salt layer over arable land. It has
been reported that in the Maldives, 16 to 17 coral reef atolls that
were overcome by sea waves are completely without fresh water and
could be rendered uninhabitable for decades. Uncountable wells that
served communities were invaded by sea, sand, and earth; and aquifers
were invaded through porous rock. Salted-over soil becomes sterile,
and it is difficult and costly to restore for agriculture. It also
causes the death of plants and important soil micro-organisms.
Thousands of rice, mango, and banana plantations in
Sri Lanka were
destroyed almost entirely and will take years to recover. On the
island's east coast, the tsunami contaminated wells on which many
villagers relied for drinking water. The Colombo-based International
Water Management Institute monitored the effects of saltwater and
concluded that the wells recovered to pre-tsunami drinking water
quality one and a half years after the event.
protocols for cleaning wells contaminated by saltwater; these were
subsequently officially endorsed by the
World Health Organization
World Health Organization as
part of its series of Emergency Guidelines.
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is working with
governments of the region in order to determine the severity of the
ecological impact and how to address it. UNEP has decided to earmark
a US$1,000,000 emergency fund and to establish a Task Force to respond
to requests for technical assistance from countries affected by the
tsunami. In response to a request from the Maldivian Government , the
Australian Government sent ecological experts to help restore marine
environments and coral reefs—the lifeblood of Maldivian tourism.
Much of the ecological expertise has been rendered from work with the
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef , in Australia's northeastern waters.
Tsunami aftermath in
Indonesia Psychological trauma
Many health professionals and aid workers have reported widespread
psychological trauma associated with the tsunami. Traditional beliefs
in many of the affected regions state that a relative of the family
must bury the body of the dead, and in many cases, no body remained to
be buried. Women in
Aceh required a special approach from foreign aid
agencies, and continue to have unique needs. Conflicts and a
The hardest hit area,
Aceh , is considered to be a religiously
conservative Islamic society and has had no tourism nor any Western
presence in recent years due to armed conflict between the Indonesian
military and Acehnese separatists . Some believe that the tsunami was
divine punishment for lay Muslims shirking their daily prayers and/or
following a materialistic lifestyle. Others have said that
angry that there were Muslims killing other Muslims in an ongoing
conflict. Saudi cleric
Muhammad Al-Munajjid attributed it to divine
retribution against non-Muslim vacationers "who used to sprawl all
over the beaches and in pubs overflowing with wine" during Christmas
The widespread devastation caused by the tsunami led the main rebel
group GAM to declare a cease-fire on 28 December 2004 followed by the
Indonesian government, and the two groups resumed long-stalled peace
talks, which resulted in a peace agreement signed 15 August 2005. The
agreement explicitly cites the tsunami as a justification. Media
In a poll conducted in 27 countries by
GlobeScan for BBC World
Service , 15 percent of respondents named the tsunami the most
significant event of the year. Only the
Iraq War was named by as many
respondents. The extensive international media coverage of the
tsunami, and the role of mass media and journalists in reconstruction,
were discussed by editors of newspapers and broadcast media in
tsunami-affected areas, in special video-conferences set up by the
Asia Pacific Journalism Centre. Fraud, false alarms, and panic
The 26 December 2004 Asian tsunami left both the people and
India in a state of heightened alert. On 30 December
2004, four days after the tsunami, the
Portland, Oregon -based company
Terra Research notified the
India government that its sensors
indicated there was a possibility of 7.9 to 8.1 magnitude tectonic
shift in the next 12 hours between
Sumatra and New Zealand. In
India Home Affairs minister announced that a fresh
onslaught of deadly tsunami were likely along the
India southern coast
and Andaman and
Nicobar Islands , even as there was no sign of
turbulence in the region. The announcement generated panic in the
Indian Ocean region and caused thousands to flee their homes, which
resulted in jammed roads. The announcement was a false alarm and the
Home Affairs minister withdrew their announcement. On further
India government learned that the consulting
company Terra Research was run from the home of a self-described
earthquake forecaster who had no telephone listing and maintained a
website where he sold copies of his detection system. Three days
after the announcement,
Indian National Congress
Indian National Congress president Sonia
Gandhi called Science border:solid #aaa 1px">
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Sri Lanka portal
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2006 Yogyakarta earthquake
2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
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