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Disasters That Shook India: Tsunami 2004

Updated on July 2, 2016

The Cause

On the morning of December 26, 2004, Indian fisherman woke up to see a strange phenomenon. It was nothing like they had ever seen before. The gigantic, deadly waves of the tsunami were approaching the shores. These waves were caused by an earthquake of a magnitude of more than 9 on the Richter Scale, probably the highest reading ever recorded in the region. The waves swept away everything that came in their path. According to National Geographic, this was the deadliest tsunami in history.

This earthquake took place because of a thrust fault in the subduction zone, causing the overlapping of tectonic plates. This movement led to a vertical displacement of 15 to 20 meters, breaking the ocean floor and resulting in tsunami waves. The massive displacement had been caused by the severe earthquake. Since 1900, only five times has the 9-point mark been crossed on the Richter Scale, this was the fourth occasion. The epicenter of this quake was around the West Coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The waves caused were up to 30 meters (100 feet) in height.

These waves caused massive destruction in the southern parts of India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand. Indonesia was the hardest hit country.

The Destruction

  • According to US Geological Survey, around 227,998 people lost their lives in this disaster.
  • According to a report by Siti Fadilah Supari (the Indonesian Health Minister at that time), around 220,00 people were killed in Indonesia itself.
  • More than 500,000 houses were washed away, leaving many people homeless.
  • In India, the death count was around 20,000.
  • These waves traveled more than 5,000 kilometers and were still strong enough to cause death and destruction.
  • The earthquake that caused these waves was predicted to carry energy equivalent to 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs.
  • Coastlines of 11 countries were affected by this tsunami between East of Africa to Thailand.
  • Over 500,000 people were injured and lakhs went missing.
  • Many islands of Andaman and Nicobar were swept away by the waves.
  • According to the Nicobar Police Chief SB Doel, 1 in every 5 persons living on the islands were either injured or killed.
  • While some of the islands vanished completely, others changed their shape and few were even split into parts.
  • 80% of the people affected in India belonged to the fisherman community and more than 50,000 fishing vessels were damaged.

The Response

Some of the people were able to recover due to the financial support provided by various insurance policies. Some even had child insurance plan and were able to financially protect their loved ones even though they had been injured and lost their jobs. Many were forced to take shelter in relief camps. This tragedy saw the world uniting for a greater good. People from different countries and regions came together to help the victims of this disaster.

  • According to BBC, more than $7 billion was raised worldwide for tsunami victims and manpower was also sent from various regions.
  • Japan was the biggest donor, offering around $500 million.
  • Relief camps were set up for the victims and food as well as cloths were provided to them.
  • People donated money from all over the world.
  • The Disaster Emergency Committee generated £392 million from the British public, which was used for reconstruction.
  • Top cricketers from around the world came together to play charity matches. Money generated was donated for relief.
  • The Indian government announced $29 million for the development of an early warning system to minimize the damage from such a calamity in the future.

The major reason behind such destruction was no prior warning. According to experts at Bharti AXA, it is always better to prepare for the unforeseen and the unpredictable. So, if you have small children, you can opt for a child life insurance to secure their future in case of an unplanned misfortune.

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