Indian Ocean Tsunami

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  • Topic: 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Aceh, Tsunami
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  • Published : October 24, 2012
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UNPRECEDENTED CHAOS
2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami

The Disasters Unfold:
On 26 Dec 2004 at about 6:58 a.m. an earthquake happened under the ocean, the epicenter was off the west coast of Sumatra Island, Indonesia. This 9.1 earthquake (USGS 2004) was caused by the longest recorded shift of earth’s tectonic plates, lasting of over 8 minutes. The quake was the third strongest in recorded history and the resulting tsunami was the deadliest ever. The death toll was estimated more then 230,000 (Hoffner 2011). On Fisher’s Disaster Scale, this lethal tsunami was a Category 9 disaster. Banda Aceh, the provincial capital and largest city in the province of Aceh, was the closest large city to the epic center. It also has a long history as a stopover point for Muslims on pilgrimage to Mecca by boat -- Banda Aceh literally means “port” (Banda) and “porch of Mecca” (Aceh). For centuries, this port was safe stopover port, but nothing there was safe on that fateful November day. As the earthquake epicenter was a mere 155 miles off the coast of Banda Aceh, the natural reaction to this epic shaking was for the Banda Aceh residents to go out into the street to take inventory of themselves and their shaken homes. Within forty-five minutes, Banda Aceh, which is located at an elevation of 100 feet about sea level, began to get decimated by repeated tsunami waves. The earthquake’s proximity to some of the world’s poorest countries, plus coupled with relatively flat landscape were the main ingredients for the lethality of this tsunami. The deadly tsunami waves wreaked havoc in the coastal communities in twelve countries, reaching as far as South Africa shoreline. Most of these poor countries did not have tsunami warning systems in place to alert their citizens. For the purpose of this paper, I chose to narrow the scope of conversation to northern Indonesia, specifically the province of Aceh. We were terrified. Then the sea became very strange, with the water receding over 200 meters. Suddenly we saw that fish had been left on the beach, and some people were happy at their luck at finding them. They tried to gather them up, but then we saw a huge wave coming, and people tried to run and save themselves. But many people died because they were not fast enough. It was particularly bad for the children. All of the children in this village have died and about half of the 300 people from the village are gone. Alu Naga village survivor.

The World Responds:
As I researched Aid agencies and their response, one word appeared time and again – unprecedented. As reports of staggering human and financial lose reached the rest of the world, it became evident that an unprecedented aid response would be required. Media played a huge and important role as the world watched countless heart wrenching stories of children being swept away from their mothers and whole families perishing. Shocking stories and pictures aired on world news broadcasts and all over the internet. Western media coverage was extensive, partially fueled by the fact that hundreds of European tourists were killed, which helped generate much needed aid’ (Thomas 2005).

‘The world village responded with pledges of USD7.7 billion. As the number of aid agencies grows, look for continuation of this trend of individual donors searching the web for relief agencies whose mission is in line with their giving priorities and donating to them regardless of their size or established agency history. I am not focusing on shady or in-effective relief agencies, some of them existed and their presence just added to the chaos of the aid pipeline in Aceh province.

The method of financial backing from the many hands of small individual donations was not an aberration; rather it was the infancy of a new trend in fund raising. Small donor fund raising remains popular; during Obama’s 2008 presidential run; monthly fund raising records were attained by gaining support from a...
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