In the early hours of the morning on Sunday 26 December 2004 , a massive earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale struck Indonesia on the west coast of northern Sumatra . The epicentre was 30 kilometres under the seabed and 250 kilometres south-southwest of Banda Aceh. The first quake was followed by aftershocks ranging from 6 to 7.3 – themselves large enough to destroy thousands of lives and wreak havoc.
The quakes triggered powerful tsunamis (tidal waves) towering 10 metres in height. These moved through the Indian Ocean region at over 500 kilometres an hour flooding and wrecking coastal areas, causing widespread death and injuries, displacing tens of thousands and wiping out homes, infrastructure, livelihoods as well as destroying fuel networks. The worst affected countries were India , Indonesia , Malaysia , Maldives , Myanmar , Sri Lanka , Seychelles , Thailand and Somalia . Bangladesh , Kenya and Australia also absorbed some of the brunt of what was possibly the most devastating natural disaster in recent memory.
As of 6 January estimates of deaths exceeded 150,000 and climbing with nearly 100,000 of them in Indonesia . Displaced people numbered at least one million with 835,028 in Sri Lanka alone and reports of another 400,000 people sheltering in tents or scattered in refugee camps in the Indonesian provinces of Aceh and Northern Sumatra . Overall an estimated 500,000 were injured, while some five million people throughout the region lack basic services. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimated that children account for more than one-third of deaths and that some 1.5 million have been affected by the disaster.
In the affected areas economic life has ground to a halt as businesses have collapsed. Millions have seen their families and communities torn apart. The disaster predominantly affected poor communities where people lived on marginal land. Their livelihoods were destroyed and they were stripped of the few assets they possessed.
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