On December 26, 2004, the earthquake and its resulting tsunami claimed the lives of 227,898 people across 14 different countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. The disaster is the deadliest tsunami on record and is the tenth deadliest natural disaster in the history of the world.
The disaster started with a 9.1 magnitude megathrust earthquake, which occurred undersea approximately 100 miles off the coast of Sumatra. The sudden shift between the Burma and Indian tectonic plates spanned 700 miles. During the earthquake, the Burma plate rose by 50ft over the Indian plate, pushing enormous amounts of ocean water upward. The upward motion caused waves to travel in all directions at speeds of up to 500mph.
The tsunami was of a type known as a “teletsunami,” which means that it affects land that is far away from where the tsunami began. That day, the tsunami reached distances that were 5,300 miles from the epicenter. The countries that were impacted by the tsunami include Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, the Republic of Maldives, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, the Republic of Seychelles, Madagascar, and South Africa.
The energy released during the tsunami was estimated to be as powerful as 5 megatons of TNT. Evidence shows that when the tsunami waves were traveling inland, they reached a height of 100 feet in some areas. The total cost of the damage that resulted from the disaster was $2.9 billion.
In addition to the vast amount of deaths caused by the tsunami, approximately 125,000 people were injured, 1,740,000 people were displaced, and 43,786 people remain missing to this day. Countries around the world donated $14 billion in humanitarian aid to assist affected countries with emergency efforts. The seismic event was the first major tsunami to occur in the Indian Ocean since A.D. 1400.
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