Indian Ocean Boxing Day Tsunami 2004


This tsunami was caused by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake deep below the Indian ocean. The earthquake is the third highest magnitude that has ever been measured on the richter scale. It occurred in the Sunda trench the area of the Indian ocean where the Australia plate is being subducted beneath the Burma plate. There was a 15-20 metre slip over a four minute time period, this lead to the sea floor uplifting and therefore an uplift in water causing a tsunami. Tsunamis act differently in the sea to when they are near beaches. In the deep ocean tsunami waves form at a lower height but at a faster speed. When they come near beaches where there is shallower water. The waves from the tsunami reached 30 metres in height in some areas of beach.



  • Casualties were reported in Countries on both sides of the Indian ocean. These included India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Highest number of deaths in Indonesia. Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India all sore over 500,000 people displaced.
  • No early warning systems picked up the tsunami and many of the coastal areas were highly populated in remote areas.
  • Many of the areas impacted had already been affected by the earthquake so could not effectively respond.
  • Oxfam place the number of casualties at 230,000. One third of the dead were children having serious future implications on the future of their economies.
  • 9000 foreign tourists lost their lives at the peak of the tourism season, significant international impact and could lessen the attractiveness of the areas to foreign tourists in the future.
  • 60% of Sri Lanka’s fishing fleet were destroyed as a result of the tsunami along with industrial equipment. Agriculture makes up 13% of gdp.
  • Saltwater contamination of drinking water led to crops dying and prevented human consumption.
  • Severe damage to local ecosystems including coral reefs.



  • A tsunami warning system was present in the pacific ocean but not in the indian ocean. This was partly due to the economic status of the countries in the region. Although in this situation a warning system wouldn’t have saved the lives of those in areas very close to the epicentre, many of those who were further away may have had time to get to high ground. As a result of this a Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System has been created. This became active in 2006 and has 25 seismograph station which monitor constantly for shockwaves from earthquakes.
  • One of the biggest worries was the chance of the spread of diseases including cholera and Hepatitis A and B. To try and lower the risk, bodies were quickly burnt or buried lowering the chance of bodily fluids entering water supplies and spreading through the living human population. It is believed that this led to a low incidence of disease overall.  
  • The World Food Programme provided 1.3 million people with emergency food aid.
  • US$7Billion was provided in aid from predominantly rich countries such as the USA and Australia. Large amounts of aid was given voluntarily through NGOs, this touched the hearts of many with it occurring directly after Christmas.