Many tsunamis occur each year, but one of the most deadly and destructive ones in history occurred in 2004. The tsunami was triggered by an undersea megathrust earthquake. The earthquake, known as the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake, was the second biggest tsunami ever recorded, registering between 9.1 and 9.3. The earthquake set off the tsunami, which is known by a variety of names including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Asian Tsunami, the Indonesian Tsunami, and the Boxing Day Tsunami. The earthquake occurred on December 26, which was the same day the tsunami occurred.
The death tolls for the 2004 earthquake are staggering. At first, the U.S. Geological Survey put the death toll at 283,100 killed. They also believed that there were 14,100 missing and 1,126,900 people displaced. However, new statistics showed that fewer people than originally believed died. Currently, at least 227,898 people have been confirmed as dead. At last count, over a million and a half people were displaced as a result of the tsunami.
The tsunami, which was actually a series of tsunamis, affected many countries. India, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand suffered the most in terms of damage and casualties. The most deaths occurred in Indonesia. A number of other countries also suffered from the tsunami including Bangladesh, Kenya, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Yemen, Australia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Oman, and Singapore. Numerous other countries lost citizens who were traveling abroad and were caught by the tsunami.
People who knew the warning signs of a tsunami were able to save themselves. One British family on vacation was saved because one of the children had learned about tsunamis and recognized the warning signs. The family made it to safety. Animals seemed to sense the tsunami was coming and retreated to higher ground, accounting for few animals found dead from the tsunami.
The waves of the 2004 tsunami reached 30 meters, which is by no means the largest tsunami ever recorded. However, the 2004 tsunami did substantial damage. It destroyed thousands of miles of coastline. It even completely covered some islands.
The effect of the tsunami has been long lasting. In addition to the huge loss of life, there was a huge economic and environmental impact on the countries affected. In coastal areas, much of the fishing gear and supplies was destroyed. The tsunami also made tourists hesitant to stay in the area. There was also contamination of drinking water and destruction of coral reefs, forests, and other many other natural features.
Universe Today has articles on effects of tsunamis and tsunamis.
Astronomy Cast has an episode on Earth.