Tsunami Hits Coastal Communities Across Southeast Asia, Killing An Estimated 275,000 People


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On December 26, 2004 the Asian Tsunami hit the coastal regions of Southeast Asia. It was the result of the second largest and longest lasting underwater earthquake ever recorded, and has since been referred to as the single worst tsunami on record.

The earthquake that generated this tsunami reached a magnitude of 9.3 on the Richter scale and lasted for between 500 and 600 seconds. The wave caused by this quake did massive damage to parts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand, with crests reaching a maximum height of 100 feet.

The damage that resulted from this tsunami was extensive. Repairs to the area are ongoing, and are estimated to take five to ten years to complete. Widespread damage to local infrastructure, shortages of food and water, and the potential for disease create additional risks. 186,983 people where killed, and 14,100 where reported missing. A further 1,126,900 people were rendered homeless, requiring massive relief efforts to ensure that those that survived the tsunami did not suffer from other causes, resulting from the extensive damage created by the wave.

The social impact of this tsunami was significant as well. Tourism to the area was quashed: travelers no longer wanted to visit the Southeast Asian coasts. Local families where devastated; many lost the major income earners, and in some cases whole families where completely wiped out.

There was a massive economic impact as a result of this tsunami. The local infrastructure, including roads, utilities, and food supplies where totally destroyed or extensively damaged requiring much needed and very costly repairs. The coastal fishing communities lost laborers, as well as boats, traps and other gear. It was estimated that 66% of the total fishing fleet was wiped out. Shipping through the Malacca Straights was affected by changing depths, the drifting of shipping buoys, and the shifting or movement of old shipwrecks. Salt from the sea water contaminated local fresh water supplies and farm land, in some cases rendering it useless for what may become many years. Seven billion dollars in financial aid was pumped into the area by the international community. Even now tourism has only just begun to return to the region.

To think that something as simple as a very large wave could cause damage of such a magnitude is beyond what most people can begin to imagine. Most of us think little about the possible consequences that could ensue when Mother Nature decides to make a change. In this day and age, with our complex information systems, and huge data storage requirements it is easy to see why being prepared and taking every reasonable precaution makes economic sense, and is socially responsible.

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