2004 Tsunami remembered.

2004 Tsunami Remembered

  • December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami was caused by an earthquake that is thought to have had the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs.
  • The epicenter of the 9.1 magnitude quake was located in the Indian Ocean near the west coast of Sumatra.
  • The rupture lasted 10 sec and was more than 600 miles long, displacing the seafloor by 10 yards horizontally and several yards vertically. As a result, trillions of tons of rock moved, causing the largest magnitude earthquake in 40 years.
  • Within hours of the earthquake, killer waves(20-30 m) radiating from the epicenter slammed into the coastlines of 11 countries, damaging countries from east Africa to Thailand.
  • Over 225,000 died.



Giant forces that had been building up deep in the Earth for hundreds of years were released suddenly on December 26, shaking the ground violently and unleashing a series of killer waves that sped across the Indian Ocean at the speed of a jet airliner.

By the end of the day more than 225,000 people were dead or missing and millions more were homeless in 11 countries, making it perhaps the most destructive tsunami in history.

The epicenter of the 9.0 magnitude quake was under the Indian Ocean near the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The violent movement of sections of the Earth’s crust, known as tectonic plates, displaced an enormous amount of water, sending powerful shock waves in every direction.

The earthquake was the result of the sliding of the portion of the Earth’s crust known as the India plate under the section called the Burma plate. The process has been going on for millennia, one plate pushing against the other until something has to give. The result on December 26 was a rupture 0f more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) long, displacing the seafloor above the rupture by perhaps 10 yards (about 10 meters) horizontally and several yards vertically. That doesn’t sound like much, but the trillions of tons of rock that were moved along hundreds of miles caused the planet to shudder with the largest magnitude earthquake in 40 years.

Above the disturbed seafloor the great volume of the ocean was displaced along the line of the rupture, creating one of nature’s most deadly phenomena: a tsunami. Within hours killer waves radiating from the earthquake zone slammed into the coastline of 11 Indian Ocean countries, snatching people out to sea, drowning others in their homes or on beaches, and demolishing property from Africa to Thailand.

The Indian Ocean tsunami traveled as much as 3,000 miles (nearly 5,000 kilometers) to Africa, arriving with sufficient force to kill people and destroy property.

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A tsunami may be less than a foot (30 centimeters) in height on the surface of the open ocean, which is why they are not noticed by sailors. But the powerful pulse of energy travels rapidly through the ocean at hundreds of miles per hour. Once a tsunami reaches shallow water near the coast it is slowed down. The top of the wave moves faster than the bottom, causing the sea to rise dramatically. The Indian Ocean tsunami caused waves as high as 50 feet (15 meters) in some places. Tsunamis can extend inland by a thousand feet (300 meters) or more. The enormous force and weight of so much water sweeps away almost everything in its path. As many as a third of the people who died in the Indian Ocean tsunami were children; many of them would not have been strong enough to resist the force of the water. Many people were crushed by debris or when the sea hurled them against structures.

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In several places the tsunami announced itself in the form of a rapidly receding ocean. Many reports quoted survivors saying how they had never seen the sea withdraw such a distance, exposing seafloor never seen before, stranding fish and boats on the sand. Tragically the novelty of the sight apparently stoked the curiosity of the people who ran out onto the exposed seafloor. Tourists in Thailand were seen wandering around photographing the scene.

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As the day of horror drew to a close the ocean calmed. But where at the start of the day people were going about their normal lives or relaxing at exotic beach resorts now millions of people were struggling with the reality of tens of thousands of dead or missing relatives, destroyed homes, and shattered lives. The thousands of corpses, many hanging in trees or washed up on beaches, immediately started to rot in the tropical heat.

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With no food or clean water and open wounds, the risk of famine and epidemic diseases was high. Health authorities feared that the death toll might double to 300,000.

Across the world the magnitude of the disaster and the scale of the suffering prompted a new wave—one of sympathy, support, and assistance for the people affected by the tsunami.

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