Betreff: 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake Update
Datum: Tue, 28 Dec 2004 12:59:45 -0700

December 28, 2004





[Editor's Note: Visit the link above for extensive links and references.

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea megathrust earthquake of
moment magnitude 9.0 that struck the Indian Ocean off the western coast of
northern Sumatra, Indonesia on December 26, 2004 at 00:58:50 UTC (07:58:50
local time in Jakarta and Bangkok). The quake and the resulting tsunamis are
being called the worst natural disaster in modern history, even though it
was not the most deadly, because of the widespread nature of the impact. It
was the largest earthquake on Earth since the 9.2-magnitude Good Friday
Earthquake which struck Alaska, USA, on March 27, 1964, and the fourth
largest since 1900. Tens of thousands were killed by the resulting tsunamis,
which were as high as 10 m (33 ft) in some locations and struck within three
hours of the quake.

The multiple tsunamis struck and ravaged coastal regions all over the Indian
Ocean, devastating regions including the Indonesian province of Aceh, the
coast of Sri Lanka, coastal areas of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the
resort island of Phuket, Thailand, and even as far away as Somalia, 4,100?km
(2,500?mi) west of the epicenter.

Quake characteristics

Locations of the initial earthquake and aftershocks

The quake was initially reported as magnitude 6.8 on the Richter scale. On
the moment magnitude scale, which is more accurate for quakes of this size,
the earthquake's magnitude was first reported as 8.1 by the United States
Geological Survey, but after further analysis they increased this first to
8.5 and 8.9 and finally 9.0.

For comparison, the largest recorded earthquake was the Great Chilean
Earthquake of 1960, having a magnitude of 9.5. The only other larger quakes
worldwide since 1900 were the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake (9.2) and a March
9, 1957 quake [1] in the Andreanof Islands (9.1), both in Alaska, USA. The
only other recorded 9.0 magnitude earthquake, in 1952 off the southeast
coast of Kamchatka, U.S.S.R., spawned tsunamis that caused extensive damage
in Kamchatka, the Kuril Islands and the Hawaiian Islands.

The hypocenter was at 3.298¡ÆN, 95.779¡ÆE, some 160 km (100 mi) west of
Sumatra, at a depth of 10 km (6.2 mi) underwater, within the "Ring of Fire"
zone of frequent earthquakes. The quake itself (apart from the tsunamis) was
felt as far away as Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore,
Thailand and the Maldives.

The earthquake was unusually large in geographical extent. About 1,200?km
(740?mi) of faultline slipped 15?m (50?ft) along the subduction zone where
the India Plate dives under the Burma Plate. This formed a shock wave in the
Indian Ocean, creating tsunamis that traveled at up to 800?km/h (500?mi/h).

Tectonic plates at epicenter

The India Plate is part of the great Indo-Australian Plate, which underlies
the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, and is drifting northeast at an average
of 5?cm/yr (2?in/yr), relative to the Burma Plate. The Burma Plate carries
the Nicobar and Andaman Islands and northern Sumatra, and is pushed by the
Sunda Plate to its east. Both the Burma and Sunda Plates are considered
portions of the great Eurasian Plate. The tectonic activity that results as
these plates scrape against each other led to the creation of the Sunda Arc.

Numerous aftershocks of magnitude between 5.7 and 6.3 were reported off the
Andaman Islands in the following hours and days. Aftershocks off the Nicobar
Islands were also reported, including ones of magnitude 7.5 [2] , and 6.5
[3] . Other aftershocks between magnitude 5.0 and 6.3 occurred near the
location of the original quake. See also: USGS current earthquake
information .

The earthquake came just three days after a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in a
completely uninhabited region west of New Zealand's sub-Antarctic Auckland
Islands, and north of Australia's Macquarie Island [4] . This would normally
be unusual, since earthquakes of magnitude 8 or more occur only once per
year on average. The possible connection between these two earthquakes has
been addressed by seismologists, saying that the former one might be the
catalyst to the Indian Ocean earthquake, both happened on their respective
sides of Indo-Australian tectonic plate [5] . Coincidentally, it also struck
almost exactly one year (within an hour) after a magnitude 6.6 earthquake
killed 30,000 people in the city of Bam in Iran [6] .

The total energy released by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake such as this one
exceeds the total amount of energy consumed in the United States in one
month, or the energy released by the wind of a hurricane like Hurricane
Isabel over a period of 70 days ([7] ). Using the mass-energy equivalence
formula E=mc©÷, this amount of energy is equivalent to a mass of about 100?kg
(220?lb) (much more than is actually converted to energy in a nuclear
explosion), or enough to boil 5000?litres (1,300?US?gallons) of water for
every person on Earth.

Based on one seismic model, some of the smaller islands southwest of Sumatra
have moved southwest up to 20 m (66 ft). The northern tip of Sumatra, which
is on the Burma Plate as opposed to the southern regions on the Sunda Plate,
may also have moved southwest up to 36 m (120 ft). Other models suggest that
most of the movement would have been vertical rather than lateral. Further
measurement is needed to determine the nature of the actual movement. The
massive release of energy and shift in mass also caused the earth to rotate
1/10,000th of a second faster. [8]

Damage and casualties

The earthquake triggered massive tsunamis which struck the coasts of the
Indian Ocean. The death toll from the tsunamis and the resultant floods was
reported to be more than 59,000, with tens of thousands of people reported
missing, and over a million left homeless. Pacific Ocean coasts were not
affected. The death toll may be particularly high due to the fact that this
is the first time in over 100 years that a tsunami of the Indian Ocean has
struck land, leaving the affected countries unprepared and the people unable
to recognise the telltale signs of an impending tsunami. The last tsunami in
the area was caused by the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883.

In addition to the large number of local residents, some tourists during the
busy Christmas holiday travel season were among the casualties. States of
emergency were declared in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Maldives. The United
Nations has declared that the current relief operation would be the
costliest one ever.


Country - Confirmed Dead - Estimated Dead - Injured - Missing - Displaced

Indonesia - 27,174 - At least 27,174 - Unknown - ~30,000 - Unknown
Sri Lanka* - 17,640 - 25,000 - 4,000 - ~20,000 - 1.5 million
India - 9,396 - 9,400 - Unknown - >30,000 - Hundreds of thousands
Thailand - 1,516 - 2,000 - 8,432 - 1,200 - 29,000
Myanmar (Burma) - 90 - Unknown - Unknown - Unknown - Unknown
Maldives - 68 - Unknown - Unknown - 76 - Unknown
Malaysia - 65 - Unknown - >200 - 29 - Unknown
Somalia - 48 - Hundreds - Unknown - Unknown - Unknown
Tanzania - 10 - Unknown - Unknown - Unknown - Unknown
Seychelles - 3 - Unknown - Unknown - 7 - Unknown
Bangladesh - 2 - Unknown - Unknown - Unknown - Unknown
Kenya - 2 - Unknown - Unknown - Unknown - Unknown
Madagascar - None - Unknown - Unknown - Unknown - Up to 1200

Total - 56,014 - 56,014-62,000 - >10,546 - >80,000 - 1.5-2 million

* The numbers for Sri Lanka include reports from both government- as well as
Tamil-held regions.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

PHUKET, Thailand - There have been many extraordinary eyewitness accounts of
the disaster that unfolded as giant waves swept ashore after the earthquake.
The following are a selection:

"It happened in cycles. There would be a surge and then it would retreat and
then there would be a next surge which was more violent and it went on like
that," Paul Ramsbottom, a Briton on holiday in a Phuket beach bungalow, told
BBC World TV. "Then there was this one almighty surge. I mean literally this
was the one which was picking up pickup trucks and motorcycles and throwing
them around in front of us."

Simon Clark, a 29-year-old photographer from London who vacationing in
Thailand on Koh Ngai island near Krabi, told Reuters: "Suddenly this huge
wave came, rushing down the beach, destroying everything in its wake. People
that were snorkeling were dragged along the coral and washed up on the
beach, and people that were sunbathing got washed into the sea."

John Hyde, a Australian state lawmaker vacationing in Thailand, told
Australian Broadcasting Corp. television: "Just out of nowhere, suddenly the
streets (were) awash and people just running and screaming from the beach."

"People were getting swept along still on their motorbikes," Simon Morse,
another Australian tourist, told the ABC. "There were cars that had been
picked up by the storm surge and they were getting pushed down the road,
taking things out as they went."

Thai television showed scenes of devastation on one Phuket beach. Store
fronts were damaged and cars and motorcycles were strewn around after being
tossed about by the powerful waves.

A Thai man carried one elderly Western man in swimming trunks to safety on
his back, ITV showed.

Boree Carlsson, a 45-year-old Swede on vacation in Thailand, told Reuters:
"I just couldn't believe what was happening before my eyes." He said he
rushed into a hotel as the waves rolled into Patong Beach. The giant wave
flooded the hotel lobby in a matter of seconds and dragged furniture onto
the street. Carlsson was forced to wrap himself around a pillar to avoid
being swept away. "As I was standing there, a car actually floated into the
lobby and overturned because the current was so strong," said Carlsson, who
works at another beachside hotel. "The water was up to my chest and I was
holding onto my friend's hand because he can't swim."

P. Ramanamurthy, 40, a resident of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, told
The Associated Press: "I was shocked to see innumerable fishing boats flying
on the shoulder of the waves, going back and forth into the sea, as if made
of paper. Many boats were upturned, but fishermen were still holding on to
them. They also were pushed into the sea. It was shocking."

Security expert Will Geddes, vacationing in Phuket, told CNN: "The whole
beach area and most of the town were under water. Beach villas were
completely taken out. It was quite amazing to see." Those on the beach "had
to run very quickly," he said, "and the water came in again and again on

"When the water was about up to my ankles, about two seconds later it was up
to my chest," he said. The entire process, he said, took about 20 minutes,
but the first few waves -- taking about five to 10 minutes -- cause the
worst damage.

Geddes said it was low tide when the waves struck -- which may have kept the
damage from being worse. Geddes also said he felt the initial quake, which
struck just off northern Sumatra and registered 8.9 magnitude -- the
strongest earthquake on the planet in 40 years -- and it shook his villa
"quite substantially."


>From Journalist Alan Morison
Monday, December 27, 2004

PHUKET, Thailand - What do you do when you see a huge wave-wall coming at
you? You run. You run as fast as you can. You think: "This is surreal."

But you keep running ... until the water lifts you off your feet and sweeps
you onwards.

It makes no difference whether you can swim or not.

The force carries you forward, and you become a living, breathing
projectile. Grab onto something and you may live.

Surf the wave and you have a chance. Hit something solid, and you die.

As the Boxing Day tsunami swept him into the Phuket resort town of Patong,
Australian Les Boardman, 56, from the beach suburb of Cronulla in Sydney,
reached out and grabbed a post. He hung on for dear life.

He also reached out with one hand and grabbed another man, trying to save
him, but the force of the water made him let the man go.

Just a couple of minutes earlier, on the first full day of a holiday with
his wife and anxious to hit the famed Phuket blue water, Boardman had
watched the tide off Patong beach recede suddenly.

Out it went, leaving about 200 meters (yards) of exposed sand, like a giant
drawing breath. He puzzled as to what this might mean.

Only when he saw the boats racing for shore -- boats of all sizes, motors
going full bore -- did he realize what was happening. He and his wife,
Dianne, turned and ran for their lives.

They got about 20 or 30 meters, heading up the soft sand to the beach road.
Then, as Dianne dived under a parked car, the water hit them.

The moving wave-wall carried Les about 5 meters upwards, to first-floor
level, where he grabbed a post.

Through a fluke of physics, the water also lifted the car from above Dianne
and tossed her up, alongside her husband.

They were both able to scramble through a first-floor window to relative
safety, where they watched as more giant waves continued to roll in for the
next 90 minutes.

"I thought I was definitely gone," he said a few hours later, after he and
Dianne were lifted by helicopter to Wachira Hospital, on the other side of
the island.

"How the hell anyone survived has got me licked. The second wave carried a
car right towards me, but I was able to shift to one side and watch it shoot
past. The worst part was, you could see the bodies going out in the water."

The Boardmans were staying at the upscale Holiday Inn, which takes out a
section of Patong about the size of a city block and is home to hundreds
during the peak holiday season.

Early-morning swimmers in the hotel's huge pool, which is surrounded by four
storys of rooms, were swept out and up as the sea poured in through every
passageway and corridor.

The Boardmans were just two of many Australians being assisted with
insurance queries and cash loans by Consul Robin Hamilton, who arrived in
Phuket from the Thai capital Bangkok late yesterday.

At Wachira, he was told there were 13 confirmed dead in that hospital alone.

In the hospital forecourt, staff were keeping a tally of the names of those
admitted for treatment, listing them either in capitalized English or in
Thai script.

By evening, there were 10 huge boards packed with numbers and names,
including Dianne Boardman.

As soon as her cracked and bruised ribs are healed, the Sydney couple, like
many other fortunate survivors, will be heading for home.