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Nature of the South Asia Tsunami

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The 2004 South Asia Tsunami


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).

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 were uncertain on how to get the message across to those locations in the most trouble (Marris, 2005).

Geographic and human factors

According to Sharma (2005), man-made factors played a pivotal role in the South Asia Tsunami. The coast was treated with little regard to the environment, with many of the 'natural defences' once able to reduce the strength of the tsunami destroyed. Coral reefs, an effective barrier around the Thai islands had been destroyed by sewage, global warming and fishing while bulldozers wiped out sand dunes and mangroves to give tourists nicer views from their hotels (Keys et al. 2006).

The recovery process

The disaster motivated one of history's biggest donations, with more than 7 billion dollars raised in humanitarian



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