Case Study of the Indian Ocean Tsunami
On December 26, 2004, the Indian Ocean earthquake, or the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake, caused a tsunami that killed 230,000 people and was recorded as the deadliest tsunami in known history. The earthquake was recorded as between 9.1 and 9.3 on the Richter scale, the second largest earthquake ever recorded. It was also recorded as the longest one, triggering earthquakes as far away as Alaska. Following the disaster, a worldwide effort raised billions of dollars in tsunami relief.
The initial toll by the U.S. Geological Survey was 283,100 dead. However, actual figures counted 229,886. About one-third of the dead are children because they were least able to fight the waters. Additionally, nearly 9,000 foreign tourists were dead or missing.
The disaster affected Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, the Maldives, Somalia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Seychelles and others in South East Asian. In some areas, drinking water supplies and farm fields are contaminated for the long term by the ocean's salt waters. The United Nations stated that the relief effort will be the costliest in history and reconstruction may take up to ten years. One of the biggest fears was the spread of diseases, which prompted non-governmental organizations and relief agencies to increase humanitarian aid.
Furthermore, the economic impact is devastating on both the national and local levels. Costal fishing communities are some of the poorest in the region, and fishing exports account for substantial earnings of the countries. Nearly two-thirds of the fishing fleet and infrastructure were destroyed. The earthquake and ensuing tsunami changed the seabed in the Malacca Straits, and new navigational charts would have to be created. Additionally, tourism is greatly impacted as foreigners canceled their trips to South East Asian.
The disaster also has a great environmental impact as it inflicted severe damage on ecosystems such as mangroves, coral reefs, forests, coastal wetlands, vegetation, sand dunes and rock formations, animal and plant biodiversity and groundwater. The spread of wastes and industrial chemicals further polluted waters and threaten ecosystems. The invading seawater also contaminated freshwater, destroying the critical environment habitable for coral reefs.
The public was generous in donating to tsunami aid. For instance, in the United Kingdom, the public donated nearly US$600,000,000. Compared to the government, the donation was quite substantial, averaging around $10 per person, including the homeless and children.
Governments and humanitarian organizations responded by providing sanitation facilities and fresh drinking water to prevent a wave of diseases from increasing the death toll. The quick response mitigated and contained diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, dysentery, and typhoid that could have inflicted even more damage. Also, there was a substantial movement to bury bodies to prevent the spread of disease.
Globally, countries provided over US$3 billion in aid. The government of Australia pledged nearly US$820 million and the United States pledged $950 million. In the US, a joint effort by former Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton led the effort to provide private aid to tsunami victims.