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2004 Indonesian Region Tsunami

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ATS1310 Short Essay: 2004 Indonesian region Tsunami 

The Indian Ocean earthquake and the tsunami that followed in 2004, is considered the seventh deadliest recorded natural disaster, measured by death toll, with the fatalities in the range of 225000-275000 people dead (Armageddon Online, 2007). Tsunami’s are large and powerful waves caused by the sudden movement of the ocean, which can happen following an earthquake, landslides on the sea floor, or large amounts of earth being deposited into the ocean all at once. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was measured, and its revised moment magnitude was 9.3 (Sinadinovski. C, 2006), making it a megathrust earthquake. ‘[These types of] earthquakes often generate large tsunamis that cause damage over a much wider area than is directly affected by ground shaking near the earthquakes rupture’ (Sinadinovski. C, 2006).  

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                          Figure 1: Map showing the countries which felt and/or were affected by the                            2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake. The smallest circle in the map depicts the                            epicentre of the earthquake. (BBC News, 2005)

In a study conducted in 2005 by Havidan Rodriguez, Tricia Wachtendorf, James Kendra, and Joseph Trainor, they document a lack of knowledge of tsunamis in majority of these countries, namely Sri Lanka and India, due to no previous recorded exposure, thus not being able to recognise that the receding ocean is a typical warning sign that a tsunami is due to hit. There was no advanced early warning system put into place, and even once the event had begun, no communication of what was happening occurred, leading those being affected without a sense of knowing what will happen next. This left the communities highly vulnerable and at risk when the earthquake struck at 12.58am on December 26th, 2004, as many people would have assumed that after the earthquake had ceased, the danger was over, when they needed to evacuate to higher ground. Coastal fishing communities were heavily affected, with many losing their livelihoods, homes, and source of income.  

Although the damage caused was very severe with several countries requiring food, water and shelter, the funding provided by international humanitarian response broke records, with approximately USD13.5 billion (Telford. J, Cosgrove. J, 2007), meaning that budgetary constrains that are normally in place for humanitarian aid, were a non-issue when it came to the recovery process of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.  

The disastrous events which took place in 2004 in several countries highlights the importance of having early warning systems in place for the Indian ocean, mimicking the one in the Pacific Ocean. Had the tsunami early warning system been in place, thousands of lives would have been saved due to appropriate warning giving people the time needed to evacuate to higher ground and away from the coast line. Education of natural disasters which are specific to a geolocation is key as being aware when a disaster is occurring can prevent people from placing themselves in a vulnerable position.  



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