The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was a calamity that swept away countless lives and livelihoods within its tides. It is one of the top massive natural disasters in the Indian history.
Today, 11 years later, the trauma and the everyday struggles of the people of the fourteen affected countries still exist.
The 2004 the Indian Ocean earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on 26 December with an epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. This was known by the scientific community as the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake.
The undersea mega thrust earthquake was caused when the Indian Plate was sub ducted by the Burma Plate and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000 people in 14 countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 metres (100 ft) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.
With a magnitude of Mw 9.1–9.3, it is the third-largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. The earthquake had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes. It caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 centimetre (0.4 inches) and triggered other earthquakes as far away as Alaska. Its epicentre was between Simeulue and mainland Indonesia
According to the U.S. Geological Survey a total of 227,898 people died (see table below for details). Measured in lives lost, this is one of the ten worst earthquakes in recorded history, as well as the single worst tsunami in history. Indonesia was the worst affected area, with most death toll estimates at around 170,000. However, another report by Siti Fadilah Supari, the Indonesian Minister of Health at the time, estimated the death total to be as high as 220,000 in Indonesia alone, giving a total of 280,000 fatalities.
A great deal of humanitarian aid was needed because of the widespread damage of infrastructure, shortages of food and water, and economic damage. The plight of the affected people and countries prompted a worldwide humanitarian response. In all, the worldwide community donated more than US $14 billion (2004) in humanitarian aid. Epidemics were of special concern due to the high population density and tropical climate of the affected areas. The main concern of humanitarian and government agencies was to provide sanitation facilities and fresh drinking water to contain the spread of diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis A and B.
There was also a great concern that the death toll could increase as disease and hunger spread. However, because of the initial quick response, this was minimized. Relief agencies reported that one-third of the fatalities appeared to be children.
In the days following the tsunami, significant effort was spent in burying bodies hurriedly due to fear of disease spreading. However, the public health risks may have been exaggerated, and therefore this may not have been the best way to allocate resources. The World Food Programme provided food aid to more than 1.3 million people affected by the tsunami.
The economies of the countries, especially Indonesia and Sri Lanka were hit hard. The two main occupations affected by the tsunami were fishing and tourism. However, the one consolation was these occupations constituted a meagre proportion of the GDP. While local economies were devastated, the overall impact to the national economies was minor.
Beyond the heavy toll on human lives, the Indian Ocean earthquake caused an enormous environmental impact that affected and will affect the region for many years to come. It depleted the Biodiversity and ecosystems within the Indian Ocean.
It took a long time for the nations to recover from the tragedy that the earthquake had caused. Aceh Tsunami Museum, located in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, was designed as a symbolic reminder of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami disaster, as well as an educational centre and an emergency disaster shelter in case the area is ever hit by a tsunami again.
After so many years of the mournful tragedy, the countries have been reconstructed and people have stood up in unison again. Though they had to restart from the scratch, they managed to get back to their daily lives, but not completely.
Among many in Maldives, was Hussain Alifulhu, 48, who one of the last to escape the island when the tsunami swamped his home. He was among those who helped build the new community, an electrician by trade who spent the last four years living with his family in temporary shelters, fishing for sea cucumbers to make a living. On his new island home, he is working as an electrician once again.
Since 2004, the Red Cross society has provided 4,807,000 people with assistance; 51,395 new houses have been built; 289 hospitals and clinics have been built or rehabilitated. Pledged international aid from all sources for the recovery has topped $13.5bn, almost half of it given by private individuals and organisations.
However, no one can return the lives lost. In Thailand, even today, family members still call into the TTVI centre, the office tasked with finding and identifying the dead, in the hope that officials might have linked one of 300 unclaimed and unidentified bodies buried in the grave site in Phang Nga province, marked by a giant concrete wave, with the names of the missing.
But for many life has moved on – in large part assisted by international aid agencies, including Oxfam. Aisyah Harun, 49, lost her husband, three children, and two grandchildren. She was reliant on Oxfam, the first aid agency to reach her village, for a micro-loan to buy baking tools and ingredients. “I was very happy to have them back after I lost everything,” she says. “The reason I wanted to start my business again as soon as possible wasn’t only because I needed to, but I want to kill the trauma and not remember the bad things. So I wanted to work.”
The 2004 tsunami will remain in everyone’s heart as a doleful memory. However, even after dealing with such a cosmic emergency, we still do not have much mitigation techniques to save ourselves if, by chance, we get to face a similar natural calamity again. The recent Chennai floods are an epitome of the negligence of the government in regard of disaster preparedness.
The countries must implement the required safety measures and create awareness about disaster management among the masses.
We cannot stop a disaster from happening but what we can do is, be prepared for it. The crux is, that our safety is in our own hands.