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The Wrath of the Ocean
The 2004 Phuket Tsunami
Written on: March 10, 2005
It was the day after Christmas 2004 and many were enjoying the holidays in beaches and various recreational areas in and out of the country. Millions were having their breakfast one lazy Sunday morning when the sea roared and made a surprise attack on different coastlines and beaches near the Indian Ocean in Asia. Among the places affected by this so-called Indian Ocean Tsunami were Phuket in Thailand and parts of Maldives and Sri Lanka. Thousands of families were affected as the raging sea took thousands of lives and destroyed millions to billions of dollars’ worth of property and livelihood. While the tragedy could be traced back to a single natural cause, the calamity had caused many effects in various aspects of people’s lives be it social, political, economic, moral or spiritual. Whatever had caused the said disaster, it surely had made a great change in the world.
Through the years, the existence of fault lines and tectonic plates under the ocean has been a constant threat to the people of these areas. These caused a number of earthquakes which began a series of events leading to greater calamities and disasters such as tsunamis, tidal waves, ship wreck and others. The low elevation of coastline areas had increased the vulnerability of the regions prone to these kinds of disasters.
The primary cause of the said tsunami calamity which swept across this part of the globe could be identified as the unpredicted shaking of the ocean floor kilometers off the coast of Indonesia. This cause, however, could be further traced back to its root cause—the uneven distribution of heat and molten material in the mantle, the layer of the interior of the earth that is between the crust and the core. Uneven distribution of heat caused the movement of molten magma beneath the earth in order to balance the temperature differences according to the rules of calorimetry, the field of Physics and Chemistry that deals with the transfer of heat in materials. The movement of the molted magma led to the movement of the ocean floor.
Those with some Physics background might recall the Law of Conservation of Mechanical Energy that states that the total mechanical energy in the universe is constant. A much more related statement of the said law is that energy can be transformed from one form to another but it can neither be created nor destroyed. Applying this principle, heat energy beneath the earth’s crust was transformed to kinetic energy when the crust moved. Thereafter, this movement and the momentum was transferred from the ocean floor to the ocean above it which, in turn, transferred these in all directions causing sudden dryness of seashores followed by torrents of water smashing various infrastructures along the coastlines of unfortunate low-lying areas.
One would realize that most of these are, in fact, natural and uncontrollable factors. These calamities are caused either by the wrath of Mother Nature or by the hand of the Divine fulfilling a prophecy or a prediction. In fact, many related the Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy with the verse, Luke 21:25 which stated, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.” In support of this, some claimed that they had seen the moon red and the sky different the night before the sea roared and destroyed the lives of many.
The big disaster caused several misfortunes and ill effects to millions of individuals, families and groups. These ill effects, however, were balanced by several good and favorable effects which were coupled by an optimistic and good perspective used by some people is viewing the disastrous event. These effects can be classified into various aspects: economic, social and political, spiritual, moral and psychological, and physical.
Many might consider the economic effects of the tragedy to be the worst outcome of this event. Nevertheless, these might be considered the least of the major effects since it did not affect much the personality, behavior and values of affected people. As the coastline sea emptied itself of its water pulled by the great ocean and later returned by the ocean in a greater volume, men had seen one of the most beautiful yet most destructive events in their lives. They saw the beauty of the strong waves roaring against the shore, but they also saw the sea raging over the dry land, swallowing with its huge mouth the properties and livelihoods of millions. Many houses, hotels and other infrastructures were destroyed. In addition to these, anglers experienced greater difficulty since fishes began to be concentrated in some areas and exhibited different behavior due to the tsunami. Furthermore, they also had the fear of going to the sea to fish.
The tsunami also had its fair share of psychological, moral and spiritual effects. The experience of tourists and natives had made some feel that there were little movements of the ground even if there was none. In addition to this, the lost of properties and the destruction of livelihood had made the people’s morale decline significantly. Many had begun to question God’s power, His goodness and, most of all, His existence. On the other hand, others took this tragedy as a sign or a message from God who reminded them to return to Him. Some religions even went farther to the extent that they convinced themselves that their believers were not affected because they were correct in their faith. Others were confused and could not even understand how God could have caused such a murderous event to happen or why He had not stopped it from happening. While the morale and spirituality of some declined, those of others increased. The number of volunteers who helped the victims of the calamity through financial and physical means increased. Many organizations and persons donated financial aid and spent their time in helping rebuild what had been destroyed. Values were reoriented temporarily. The issues on Bush’s “War on Terrorism” were temporarily set aside as countries, rich and poor, extended financial and humanitarian aid in the name of foreign relations and politics.
Perhaps the greatest effect of this calamity was the number of lives lost. Many children lost their families. Many groups lost their members. In short, many had lost their friends and relatives. This lost had decreased the world’s population, but despite the fact that the world was then alarmed with its overpopulation, the world was also alarmed with the sudden deaths of many that could have solved its problem in overpopulation. Consequently, different religions overlapped as those deceased of one religion were buried by those of another.
The Indian Ocean Tsunami had become a great tragedy forever remembered by the people of the world as one of the tricks of death which came like a thief stealing in the night. This sudden surprise had caused millions to donate and cooperate with charitable institutions. This tragedy had opened opportunities for people to help others and to discover the real essence of life. This had opened avenues for people to experience the sense of fulfillment many had found in charity and in helping others. This tragedy, disastrous as it was, would forever be remembered as one of the tragedies that reunited the dividing world. Indeed, it would be written down in history as one of the events when the ocean showed furiously its wrath and anger.