Boxing Day Tsunami

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  • Topic: 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Tsunami, Tsunami warning system
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The 2004 South Asia Tsunami

Introduction

26th of December 2004 saw one of the deadliest natural disasters in history; a tsunami killing more than 270,000 people in fourteen countries across two continents (The Bolton Council of Mosques 2007-2012). This essay will aim to address the following issues: the nature of the disaster, geographic and human factors that contributed to the disaster, the preparation involved, the recovery process and the limitations of the data.

Nature of the South Asia tsunami

An earthquake of magnitude 9.3 shook the Indian Ocean floor surrounding the island of Sumatra, in western Indonesia, when one tectonic plate moved under the other (Bungum et al. 2006) setting off a series of tsunamis towards the coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and east coast of Africa (Cummins and Leonard, 2005). The subduction of plates caused the sea floor to rise and fall approximately 150 kilometres away towards land, resulting in the sea receding to the east, while the west coast was awash by a wave rising to a terrifying height of 30 metres (Paris et al. 2007).

Figure 1: Countries most affected by the Tsunami (Graphicmaps.com)

Preparation for the disaster

The sudden withdrawal of the sea gave Thailand some warning that a tsunami was coming whereas in Sri Lanka, the huge wave would have been the first thing they saw (Cummins and Leonard, 2005). Despite the two hour delay between the earthquake and tsunami, many people were taken by surprise due to the absence of an adequate tsunami warning system (Cummins and Leonard, 2005) Scientists believe that efforts to establish this infrastructure were thwarted by political differences, along with lack of money and scientific expertise (Joyce, 2006). Within minutes seismologists were aware of the earthquake, however without underwater monitoring equipment they could not be positive the wave had occurred. Lack of communication was also a problem, as those who knew about the tsunami...
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