2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami: Facts, FAQs, and how to help (2023)

A powerful undersea earthquake that struck off the coast of Sumatra island, Indonesia, set off the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, also known as the Christmas or Boxing Day tsunami, on Sunday morning, Dec. 26, 2004. The magnitude 9.1 quake ruptured a 900-mile stretch of fault line where the Indian and Australian tectonic plates meet. It was a powerful megathrust quake, occurring where a heavy ocean plate slips under a lighter continental plate.

The quake caused the ocean floor to suddenly rise by as much as 40 meters, triggering a massive tsunami. Within 20 minutes of the earthquake, thefirst of several 100-foot waves hit the shoreline of Banda Aceh, killing more than 100,000 people and pounding the city into rubble. Then, in succession, tsunami waves rolled over coastlines in Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka, killing tens of thousands more. Eight hours later and 5,000 miles from its Asian epicenter, the tsunami claimed its final casualties on the coast of South Africa. In all, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest disasters in modern history.

Since the 2004 tsunami, governments and aid groups have prioritizeddisaster risk reduction and preparedness. Only three weeks after the tsunami, representatives of 168 nations agreed to theHyogo Framework for Action, which paved the way for global cooperation for disaster risk reduction. Since then, ocean floor earthquake sensors have been installed to triggerearly warnings, and many local communities have been trained in evacuation and disaster response.

Majorearthquakes and tsunamisin August and September 2018 have tested Indonesia’s ability to respond and recover. Then, in December 2018, Anak Krakatau volcano’s ongoing eruptions in the Sunda Strait caused undersea landslides that triggered a tsunami that struck beaches in both Sumatra and Java. With no warning triggered by the volcanic activity, more than 400 people died. Now, the Indonesian government is working to add volcano sensors to its warning systems.

When disaster strikes, World Vision is there. Help us respond to disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

(Video) How earthquakes trigger tsunamis - BBC

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FAQs: What you need to know about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami

Explore facts and frequently asked questions about the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and learn how you can help survivors of disasters.

    • Fast facts: 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami
    • How many people died in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami?
    • Why was the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami so destructive and deadly?
    • Where did the earthquake hit?
    • How big was the earthquake that caused the Indian Ocean tsunami?
    • How can I help people affected by earthquakes and tsunamis?
    • How did World Vision help people recover from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami?
    • How does World Vision help people prepare for disasters?
    • 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami timeline

Fast facts: 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami

  • The Sumatra-Andaman earthquake, which caused the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, is estimated to have released energy equivalent to 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs.
  • In Banda Aceh, the landmass closest to the quake’s epicenter,tsunami waves topped 100 feet.
  • The tsunami’s waves traveled across the Indian Ocean at 500 mph, the speed of a jet plane.
  • The 2004 Indonesia earthquake caused a shift in the Earth’s mass that changed theplanet’s rotation.
  • Total material losses from the tsunami were estimated at $10 million.


How many people died in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami?

Nearly 230,000 people died in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, making it one of the deadliest disasters in modern history.


(Video) Watch how the tsunami happens after an earthquake deep in the sea, watch the speed of the waves

Why was the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami so destructive and deadly?

The first giant waves from the Indian Ocean tsunami reached Banda Aceh, a city of about 300,000 people within 15 or 20 minutes after the earthquake. Few residents of the densely populated area realized that the earthquake they had felt could cause a tsunami, and there was little time to flee to higher ground.

Traveling as fast as 500 mph, the waves spread out to distant countries including Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India. With no warning, coastal populations were caught by the pounding waves. Many families that made their living fishing lost everything; whole communities were wiped out by the tsunami.


2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami: Facts, FAQs, and how to help (1)

Where did the earthquake hit?

The Sumatra-Andaman earthquake struck 150 miles from the coast of Sumatra island, on the northwest of the Indonesian island group, and 31 miles below the ocean floor. The quake occurred along a fault line between the Indian tectonic plate and the Burma microplate, part of the Australian plate. The Indian plate is a heavy ocean plate, and it slipped under the lighter coastal plate, rupturing a 900-mile length of the fault.

Indonesia lies between thePacific Ring of Fire, where 90% of earthquakes occur, and the second-most active seismic zone, theAlpine belt.


(Video) Tsunami Forecast Model Animation: Sumatra 2004

How big was the earthquake that caused the Indian Ocean tsunami?

The earthquake’s magnitude was measured between 9.1 and 9.3, making it the third-most powerful quake since 1900. Magnitude is a measure of the release of energy at the earthquake’s source.

In the worst-affected areas, the quake’s intensity rated IX on the Mercalli scale, the second highest rating possible. So the quake caused violent shaking and extensive damage to even well-built buildings. Earthquake intensity is based on observation and varies in different places.


How can I help people affected by earthquakes and tsunamis?

  • Give: Donate to World Vision’s disaster relief fund to bring help when another disaster strikes.
  • Pray: Join us in praying for families as they recover and rebuild after earthquakes and other disasters:  Almighty Father, we ask for Your caring mercy on people hard hit by natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis. In the midst of their struggle to recover, give them patience, peace, and hope that their lives will continue to improve.


How did World Vision help people recover from the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami?

In response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, World Vision mounted its largest-ever relief response across five countries simultaneously —Indonesia,Sri Lanka, Thailand,India, andMyanmar— and raised more than $350 million.

World Vision focused on the needs of children, families, and their communities, with programs to provide protection, healthcare, education, and livelihoods. We provided training and employment opportunities to 40,000 people, child-rights awareness sessions for more than 27,000 people, educational support for more than 2,000 teachers and 137,000 children, and implemented community-level disaster risk reduction programs.

(Video) What is a Tsunami? Facts & Information - Geography for Kids | Educational Videos by Mocomi

World Vision built 12,000 homes, 200 Child-Friendly Spaces, 84 schools, 60 playgrounds, and 27 health clinics. We built roads, bridges, farms, factories, marketplaces, boat-building centers, and restored a fishing harbor.Our coastal restoration programs included planting 56,000 mangroves to serve as a natural barrier to rising ocean levels.

Most tsunami-related rehabilitation work was completed by 2007. Today, World Vision’s expansive child sponsorship, health, education, water, food, agriculture, and income-generating activities are found across each of the tsunami-affected countries.


How does World Vision help people prepare for disasters?

World Vision pre-positions relief supplies and trains staff for emergency work in areas like child protection, relief supply chain management, clean water provision, and more. In disaster-prone communities where we work, we organize programs to reduce risks from disasters and train local first responders.

In nearly 100 countries around the world, World Vision works to improve the lives of children and families and to help them prepare for and recover from disasters.


(Video) What is a Tsunami? | Tsunami in Japan | Tsunami Facts | Educational Videos | Always On Learning

2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami timeline

December 26, 2004

  • 7:58 a.m.:A magnitude 9.1 earthquake occurs off the northwest coast of Sumatra.
  • +15 minutes:The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii registers the quake.
  • +20 to 30 minutes:Tsunami waves more than 100 feet high pound the Banda Aceh coast, killing about 170,000 people and destroying buildings and infrastructure.
  • +1.5 hours:Beaches in southern Thailand are hit by the tsunami. Among the 5,400 who died were 2,000 foreign tourists.
  • +2 hours:The tsunami strikes the Sri Lankan coastline from the northeast and all around the southern tip; more than 30,000 people are dead or missing. The east coast of India is hard hit from Chennai south; more than 16,000 people are killed.
  • +8 hours:The tsunami reaches the east coast of Africa, killing more than 300 people in Somalia, Tanzania, and Kenya.


Learn more about earthquakes and tsunamis, which are among the most damaging and deadly disasters.

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What was done to help the 2004 tsunami? ›

DEC member charities including the British Red Cross built more than 13,700 new homes like Sabri's, which were designed to be more earthquake resistant, providing long term safety to families affected by this disaster.

How did people help with the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami? ›

Australia provided $34.4 million for the initial emergency response in Aceh: $16 million to the World Food Programme, Surfaid, the International Organisation for Migration and the World Bank to provide health, medical and emergency relief for Banda Aceh, Simeulue Islands and Sumatra.

Who helped the people in the 2004 tsunami? ›

UNICEF was on the ground in the affected region at the time of the tsunami disaster and went to work immediately to provide lifesaving humanitarian relief to the survivors. Teams were mobilized in eight countries — Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, India and Somalia.

How can we help tsunami victims? ›

providing safe water, adequate sanitation, basic nutrition and routine medical care services. caring for separated and orphaned children, and working to find, identify and reunite them with surviving family members. protecting children from exploitation and abuse.

How many people helped in the 2004 tsunami? ›

Oxfam closes final elements of its tsunami aid program: 2.5 million people helped, 10,800 wells, 2,900 houses and 102 schools.

How long did it take to clean up after the 2004 tsunami? ›

Within five years, individuals were back in homes they owned, often on their original land, in communities with new schools and in many cases improved infrastructure.

Could the 2004 tsunami have been prevented? ›

Yet, the devastation caused by the 2004 tsunami (like most other tsunamis) could have been greatly reduced in many of the thirteen countries that were hit, particularly in those countries farther from the earthquake epicentre and subject to less massive tsunamis.

How did the government respond to the Indian Ocean tsunami? ›

USAID assisted over 580,000 people impacted by the earthquake and tsunami through the delivery of emergency food, hygiene kits, medical aid, and psycho-social assistance. USAID also implemented program that provided cash-for work to clean up and clear damaged infrastructure.

How many people did the 2004 tsunami leave homeless? ›

Over 570,000 people were displaced and 179,000 buildings and homes destroyed in Indonesia as the wave swallowed large parts of the coastline.

How much money was donated to the 2004 tsunami? ›

It hit 14 countries and affected 5 million people, killing an estimated 230,000 people and making 1.7 million homeless. An estimated $13.5 billion (£8.6bn) was raised by the international community.

How many animals died in the 2004 tsunami? ›

A powerful lesson about survival — and more. On December 26, 2004, a tsunami in the Indian Ocean killed about 230,000 people, while virtually no animals died. They fled to higher ground before the water arrived.

What 5 things can you do to prepare for a tsunami? ›

How to prepare for a tsunami
  1. Check your house and land for any potential dangers related to flooding.
  2. Identify any vulnerability and repair it.
  3. Learn how to turn off the gas and electricity in your house. ...
  4. Do not store your important documents in the basement. ...
  5. Ensure that your family has an emergency kit and plan.

Where is the safest place to be in a tsunami? ›

Should a tsunami occur and you cannot get to higher ground, stay inside where you are protected from the water. It's best to be on the landward side of the house, away from windows. Often tsunamis occur in multiple waves that can occur minutes apart, but also as much as one hour apart.

Can humans control tsunamis? ›

Tsunamis, like most natural disasters, are beyond human control.

What organization helps with tsunamis? ›

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Tsunami Program is a cross-agency cooperative effort to minimize the impacts of tsunamis.

What organizations help the Japanese prepare for natural disaster? ›

In addition to emergency relief and support for recovery and reconstruction when disasters strike, The Nippon Foundation works in various way to prepare for major disasters, including through human resource development and the establishment of a relief fund.

What organizations helped with the 2011 tsunami? ›

Shortly after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, the International Rescue Committee responded by providing technical and financial support to three Japanese aid groups—the Association for Aid and Relief Japan (AAR), Japan Emergency NGO (JEN) and Peace Winds Japan.

How many children died in the 2004 tsunami? ›

26. An unusually high number of the victims appear to have been children, lost to epic waves that swept away the weak, the old and the young. Unicef officials estimate that of the 30,000 people killed by the tsunamis in Sri Lanka, at least 10,000 were children.

Did anyone survive the biggest tsunami? ›

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska is home to the largest tsunami ever recorded. The 1,720-foot wave hit the tall banks of Lituya Bay in Southeast Alaska in 1958. There were two people who were in the bay who died, and four survived.

How did the 2004 tsunami affect people's lives? ›

1](i)humanitarian toll: it affected more than 18 countries from Southeast Asia to Southern Africa, killing more than 250,000 people in a single day and leaving more than one million homeless,(ii)economic toll: it left several million of dollars of economic loss affecting fishing and tourist industries,(iii) ...

How did the US military respond to the 2004 tsunami? ›

Following the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on December 26, 2004, the U.S. military responded with a humanitarian relief effort. The U.S. Navy dispatched Carrier Strike Group 9, led by USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) for assistance to the coast of Sumatra and to the Indonesian province of Aceh.

How long did it take to fix the 2004 tsunami? ›

Within five years, individuals were back in homes they owned, often on their original land, in communities with new schools and in many cases improved infrastructure.

How did Thailand deal with the 2004 tsunami? ›

It is widely acknowledged that the Royal Thai Government (RTG) led an effective emergency response to the disaster including a massive forensic operation to identify the bodies of thousands of foreign visitors and Thai citizens. The basic humanitarian needs of the affected communities were addressed within days.

Why can't tsunamis be prevented? ›

There is no season for tsunamis. We cannot predict where, when or how destructive the next tsunami will be. However, while tsunamis cannot be prevented, there are things you can do before, during and after a tsunami that could save your life and the lives of your family and friends.

How could the damage of 2004 tsunami be minimized? ›

Mitigating against the effects of tsunamis can be achieved through: (1) public awareness; (2) installation of an early warning system; (3) an evacuation plan for communities located within inundation areas; (4) vertical evacuation; and (5) protective structures to reduce the impact on nearshore buildings.

How do you prepare for a tsunami? ›

Prepare for a Tsunami

Make an emergency plan; include family communication and evacuation plans. Map out routes to safe places on high ground or inland; practice walking them to make them familiar. Put together portable disaster supplies kits for home, work, and cars.

Why was there no warning for the 2004 tsunami? ›

When the Indian Ocean tsunami struck on Dec. 26, 2004, no one saw the massive waves coming. Authorities in Indonesia, where a 9.1 magnitude quake sparked the tsunami, weren't able to send out an alert because the country's sensor system had been hit by lightning.

How did the 2004 tsunami affect the animals? ›

The waves swept away everything in their path, causing catastrophic damage. Nearly 230,000 people and thousands of animals were killed, making it one of the deadliest disasters ever recorded. Many animals felt the vibrations and ran for higher ground, but countless others were left injured, starving and stranded.

How did the 2004 tsunami affect society? ›

1](i)humanitarian toll: it affected more than 18 countries from Southeast Asia to Southern Africa, killing more than 250,000 people in a single day and leaving more than one million homeless,(ii)economic toll: it left several million of dollars of economic loss affecting fishing and tourist industries,(iii) ...

How many people went missing after the 2004 tsunami? ›

However, the tsunami that followed killed more people than any other tsunami in recorded history, with 227,898 dead or missing in 14 countries across the Indian Ocean. The worst hit country was Indonesia with 167,540 listed as dead ormissing and damages of $4,451.6 million.

How have countries recovered from the 2004 tsunami? ›

Home-building was a major component of the recovery effort and 140,000 homes were built. Over half those living in heavily-damaged communities have benefited directly from housing assistance and 90% of households in those areas own their homes today.

How much did it cost to rebuild after the 2004 tsunami? ›

The disaster generated a massive aid and reconstruction program, with around 463 non-government organisations and agencies spending around $7.5 billion. This made post-tsunami Aceh one of the largest reconstruction projects in the developing world. Australian donors and the government gave more than $1 billion.

What happened to the Earth after the 2004 tsunami? ›

NASA scientists using data from the Indonesian earthquake calculated it affected Earth's rotation, decreased the length of day, slightly changed the planet's shape, and shifted the North Pole by centimeters. The earthquake that created the huge tsunami also changed the Earth's rotation.


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