Important Historical Events
The death toll from the earthquake, the tsunamis and the resultant floods totals to over 150,000 people with tens of thousands reported missing, and over a million left homeless. Early news reports after the earthquake spoke of a toll only in the "hundreds", but the numbers rose steadily over the following week.
Relief agencies report that one-third of the dead appear to be children. This is a result of the high proportion of children in the populations of many of the affected regions and the fact that children were the least able to resist being overcome by the surging waters.
In addition to the large number of local residents, up to 9,000 foreign tourists (mostly Europeans) enjoying the peak holiday travel season were among the dead, especially Scandinavians. The European nation hardest hit may have been Sweden.
Indonesian refugees gather under an approaching helicopter to receive food and supplies.
States of emergency were declared in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Maldives. The United Nations has declared that the current relief operation will be the costliest ever. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stated that reconstruction would probably take between five and ten years. Governments and NGOs fear the final death toll may double as a result of diseases, prompting a massive humanitarian response.
Measured in lives lost, this is one of the ten worst earthquakes in history. It is also the single worst tsunami in history; the previous record was the 1703 tsunami at Awa, Japan that killed over 100,000 people
For purposes of establishing timelines of local events, the time zones of affected areas are: UTC+3: (Kenya, Madagascar, Somalia, Tanzania); UTC+4: (Mauritius, Réunion, Seychelles); UTC+5: (Maldives); UTC+5:30: (India); UTC+6: (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka); UTC+6:30: (Cocos Islands, Myanmar); UTC+7: (Indonesia (western), Thailand); UTC+8: (Malaysia, Singapore). Since the quake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC, add the above offsets to find the local time of the quake. A list of times can be found at a USGS web site.
A brief description of the countries most affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and resulting tsunamis is below (in alphabetical order) – for detailed information about each country see their http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Countries_affected_by_the_2004_Indian_Ocean_earthquake">individual articles as listed on Wikipedia. The description of nations with a smaller number of casualties, as well as the account of nations that have lost citizens who were travelling abroad, are listed at the bottom.
Impact on India
The tsunami toll has risen to 15,493 dead or feared dead, according to the table of casualties on the Home Ministry website (http://www.ndmindia.nic.in/Tsunami2004/>). 9,575 casualties have been confirmed so far, most of them in the state of Tamil Nadu. There are still 5,918 people missing, nearly all of them in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The estimated number of casualties in India is 16,000, split roughly equally between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Indian mainland.
Impact on Indonesia
Indonesia's Ministry of Health confirmed about 104,000 dead, mainly in the northern province Aceh of the island Sumatra, and have not finished counting. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that up to 100,000 are missing. In addition, the Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia said that up to 400,000 may be dead in villages that "show no signs of life", though the accuracy of this claim is unknown.
Impact on Malaysia
Despite its proximity to the incident, Malaysia escaped the kind of damage that struck countries thousands of miles further away. The number of deaths currently stands at 68 with 52 in Penang, 12 in Kedah, 3 in Perak and 1 in Selangor.
Impact on Maldives
In the Maldives, 76 were killed and 32 reported missing, with both figures expected to rise as communication links are restored.
Impact on Myanmar
Independent media reports 90 people killed in Myanmar due to the tsunami; witnesses in Myanmar estimate up to 600 deaths.
Impact on Somalia
Villages and coastal communities in Somalia, as far as 4,500 km (2,800 mi) from the epicentre of the earthquake, were swept away and destroyed by the huge waves. One hundred seventy-six people were confirmed dead and more than 50,000 have been displaced.
Impact on Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan authorities and the Tamil Tigers together report 48,677 confirmed deaths, mostly children and the elderly. The south and east coasts were worst hit. One and a half million people have been displaced from their homes.
Impact on Thailand
The Thai government reports 5,246 confirmed deaths, 8,457 injuries and 4,499 missing
This 2004 tsunami is the deadliest in recorded history. Prior to 2004, the deadliest recorded tsunami was the result of an earthquake near Awa, Japan in 1703 that killed 100,000. Forty-thousand people were killed in 1782 by a tsunami in the South China Sea, and the tsunami created by the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa is thought to have resulted in 36,000 deaths. The most deadly tsunami between 1900 and 2004 occurred in Messina, Italy on the Mediterranean Sea where the earthquake and tsunami killed 70,000 in 1908. The most deadly tsunami in the Atlantic Ocean resulted from the 1755 Lisbon earthquake that, combined with the toll from the actual earthquake and resulting fires, killed over 100,000.
The 2004 earthquake and tsunamis seems to be the worst natural disaster since the 1970 Bhola cyclone (Bangladesh), estimated to have killed 500,000.
Nations all over the world have so far provided over 3 billion U.S. dollars in aid for damaged regions, with the Australian federal government pledging $US 810 million (including a $US 754 million aid package for Indonesia, the German government offering $660 million, the Japanese government offering $500 million, the United States government offering $350 million, and the World Bank offering $250 million. Officials estimate that billions of dollars will be needed.
Coastal fishing communities and their fisherfolk, some of the poorest people in the region, have been the most devastated with high loss of life as well as boats and fishing gear.
Some economists believe that damage to the affected countries' economies will be minor because losses in the tourism and fishing industries are a relatively small percentage of the GDP. However, others caution that damage to infrastructure is an overriding factor. In some areas, drinking water supplies and farm fields may have been contaminated for years by salt water from the ocean.
In the days after the event, significant effort was spent in burying bodies hurriedly; this may not have been the best way to allocate resources
According to specialists, the main effect is being caused by poisoning of the fresh water supplies and the soil by salt water infiltration and deposit of a salt layer over arable land. It has been reported that in the Maldives, 16 to 17 coral reef atols that were overcome by sea waves are totally without fresh water and could be rendered unhabitable for decades. Uncountable wells that served communities were invaded by sea, sand and earth; and aquifers were invaded through porous rock. Salted-over soil becomes sterile, and it is difficult and costly to restore for agriculture. It also causes the death of plants and important soil micro-organisms. Thousands of rice, mango and banana plantations in Sri Lanka were destroyed almost entirely and will take years to recover.