Boxing Day Tsunami
Geography Issues Analysis
On the 26th of December 2004, a powerful tsunami struck the coast of many countries within the Asia Pacific region. Known as the Boxing Day Tsunami, it caused widespread destruction and devastation for thousands of natives and tourists. Reaching speeds of up to 800km/h and heights of up to 30m, the tsunami resulted in enormous short and long-term repercussions, consequently distinguishing it as one of most destructive natural disasters in recent history. An explanation of a tsunami is shown in Figure 1 below.
The Boxing Day Tsunami was triggered by an undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Measuring 9.3 on the Richter scale, it was the largest earthquake recorded since 1964. Thoroughly explained in the video below, the force of the earthquake caused 1,200km of the Earth’s crust to uplift, instigating the displacement of seawater above. The Boxing Day Tsunami was a result of this rare process.
The high waves of the Boxing Day Tsunami engulfed the coast of 13 countries in South East Asia. Indicated by the yellow in Figure 2, the countries directly affected by the tsunami include Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, the Maldives and South Africa. Since the epicentre began off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia was the country most affected. The epicentre is depicted by the rings on the map.
In terms of social, economical, as well as environmental impacts, the Boxing Day Tsunami caused extensive and widespread damage. Across 55 countries, over 230,000 locals and tourists lost their lives, whilst millions of people were displaced. Accounting for 47.9% of the total damage, over 141, 000 houses were destroyed. Following the tsunami, many food and water sources were also contaminated because of rotting bodies, and, as a result, the risk of famine and epidemic diseases was extremely high. The economy was especially affected by the tsunami. Large industries were destroyed, as well as large areas of arable land, which were heavily relied upon for agriculture. The Boxing Day Tsunami also resulted in severe long-term environmental damage. Villages, tourist resorts, farmland, and fishing grounds, were some of the many demolished or inundated with debris, bodies and plant-killing salt water. The damage caused by the tsunami, in terms of economical, infrastructural and human development losses, equated to a massive US$9.9 billion. The paragraphs below discuss some of the countries that were heavily affected by the tsunami.
Indonesia was most affected in regards to loss of life and physical damage. Two million locals were forced into homelessness and another 200,000 were listed dead, including 45,000 school children, or missing. The economy was also affected, however, in the year following the tsunami, the Indonesian economy recorded its largest growth since the Asian financial crisis.
As the country second hardest hit, the tsunami destroyed 80% of Sri Lanka’s fishing boats, and in the process, ten of the world’s twelve major fishing harbours. Consequently, 170,000 fishermen became unemployed, and a nationwide source of nutrition was lost. Homes, and crops were also demolished, increasing the number unemployed to over 400,000 people.
Economically, Thailand was one of the most heavily affected. The tsunami particularly had an acute, and long-term, impact on its tourism industry. The extensive damage to buildings and tourist hotels, as well as the absence of tourists, resulted in numerous devastating consequences. This included an exponential reduction in employment for local and migrating workers, thus substantially decaying the overall economy. During the tsunami, a large percentage of the 5000 dead and 3000 injured in Thailand were foreigners who were unknowingly holidaying on popular tourist islands, including Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nha. The fishing industry was also greatly affected. The loss of fishing boats, trawlers, bait and tackle, had a huge impact on fishermen, and forced thousands into unemployment. Figure 3 is a graph, which depicts the decline of tourism revenue, after the tsunami, for Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nha.
Figures 4, 5 and 6, are images, which show the damage caused by the Boxing Day Tsunami.
Solutions and Strategies
Shown by the devastating losses of the Boxing Day Tsunami, many LEDCs lack early warning systems. The tragic losses and consequences from this natural disaster emphasise the need to establish a tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean. An example of an early warning system can be seen in Figure 7 below. These early warning systems need to be implemented by the government in order to reduce the heavy impacts of tsunamis. A long-term program to raise awareness and educate people about the dangers of tsunamis is also essential. Evacuation plans also need to be established and exposed to the wider public. These evacuation plans are simple, yet effective, ways of reducing the number of lives lost, or harmed, due to tsunamis.