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The Tsunami of December 2004

The Tsunami of December 2004: the deadliest tsunami in recorded history

Fourteen countries and 227,898 people suffered from the Tsunami of December 2004. It was one of the most devastating and deadliest natural disasters in recorded history!

The Earthquake

The earthquake’s epicenter was between Simeulue and the Sumatra mainland. Scientists observed the longest duration of faulting ever during this event, between 8 to 10 minutes. Scientists recorded the quake as the third largest in history. It was the largest earthquake of the 21st century.

The undersea megathrust earthquake had a magnitude of 9.1 to 9.3 on the Richter Scale. Scientist also call the event the ‘Boxing Day Tsunami’ and the ‘Sumatra-Andaman Earthquake’. It occurred on the 26th of December, a day after Christmas at 07:58:53 local time exactly. The cause of the earthquake was a fault rupture between the Burmese Plate and the Indian Plate. The planet vibrated to as much as 10 millimeters due to the faulting. It triggered smaller earthquakes as far as Alaska.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami punctured 900 miles along the Indian and Australian Plates, 31 miles under the ocean’s floor. The process forced some parts of the ocean floors to rise 30 to 40 meters or 130 feet upwards. The long, unrelenting 10-minute duration of the earthquake released the power that was equal to 23 thousand Hiroshima-esque atomic bombs!

The Tsunami of December 2004

The earthquake, which was then followed by the tsunami, was felt in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Maldives. The waves that hit the coastlines were, in some places, as high as 9 meters or 30 feet. The tsunami lasted for a period of 7 hours. A long series of huge ocean waves wrought destruction to thousands of people.

The Indonesian Island of Sumatra, its city of Banda Aceh in the north, was the first that the muddy and turbulent mountain of water struck. The water rose to the immense height of 24 meters or 80 feet when it hit the shore. As the tsunami moved inwards, the waves became over 30 meters or 100 feet high in some areas!

The Devastation

The water took with it whatever came its way. The tsunami claimed the lives of one hundred thousand men, women, and children. The rolling waters swallowed buildings, trees, vehicles all, and no one who was caught in the deluge was able to survive. A tsunami researcher and forecaster, Vasily Tolov, witnessed the devastation in Banda Aceh. He said, “It was as if somebody had taken an eraser and erased everything underneath the 20-meter line. The sheer scale of the destruction was just mind-boggling.”

One and a half hours later, the Tsunami waves, traveling at over 500 miles per hour across the Indian Ocean, hit the coastal cities of Phuket and Phang Nga in Thailand. Five thousand four hundred people died in Thailand that day. Out of which, over 2,000 were foreign tourists from Europe and America vacationing in Thailand to escape the cold winters of their countries.

Within minutes of it occurrence, the tsunami struck the Andaman and Nicobar Islands due to its close proximity to the earthquake. The third and tallest wave caused the most destruction to both these islands.

The tsunami killed 10,000 people in the Indian city of Chennai, most of whom were women and children. In Sri Lanka, the death toll mounted to over 30,000 people. Thousands more became homeless after the destruction. Apart from the loss of human life, the tsunami also brought about an enormous impact on these places’ environments and ecosystems, which will keep affecting the region for many years ahead.