25.11.2014 | Blog

The 2004 Tsunami – A Shock for the World

It is ten years ago now that a tsunami erased whole coastal areas of Asia and claimed the lives of 230,000 people.

The memory of the disaster of 26 December 2004 stays alive. Every family on the coast - like here in Sri Lanka - has their own story about the tsunami.
The memory of the disaster of 26 December 2004 stays alive. Every family on the coast - like here in Sri Lanka - has their own story about the tsunami. © Welthungerhilfe

On 26th December 2004, the world learned the Japanese word ‘tsunami’, translated as ‘harbour wave’: After a marine earthquake in the Indian Ocean, within minutes seismic waves had spread out, arriving onshore at heights of up to 40 metres. According to official figures, more than 230,000 people died and 1.7 million became homeless.

2004 tsunami - facts

The quake off the north-west coast of Sumatra had a strength of 9.1 on the Richter scale and was the third strongest marine quake ever measured.

The worst affected areas were the coastal regions of India, Indonesia, Thailand, Somalia and the Maldives.

The victims of the tsunami needed fast and effective aid

Just a few hours after the first giant waves hit coastal areas, Welthungerhilfe employees from our projects in the affected regions in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia started on the preparation of emergency aid. 24 hours later, members of the Welthungerhilfe emergency response team from Bonn were on the ground.

German TV personality Dieter Thomas Heck visited Aceh, Indonesia, in 2005. The region was only 80km from the epicentre of the marine quake - destruction was particularly severe here. © Friedhelm Maedje
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India: 647,000 people became homeless due to the tsunami. Tent camps were put up to offer them temporary shelter. © Gunnar Rechenburg
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Map of the coastal areas affected by the 2004 tsunami. © Welthungerhilfe
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Together with educationalists we supported affected children in Thailand and worked to help them overcome their nightmares and fears. © Welthungerhilfe
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In India fishermen received new nets and boats. 2005: The new boats being blessed before the first trip. © Thomas Lohnes
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Our immediate and long-term support (2004 - 2009)

After the tsunami we provided fast emergency aid. In India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand we intially supplied 180,000 people with basic essentials: food, clothes and tents. A few months later, together with the victims of the natural disaster and local partners, we started on the reconstruction of their country.

Examples of our help for self-help:

Our experience shows: Combating and preventing disasters functions most effectively through a combination of acute emergency aid and long-term development cooperation. In carrying out reconstruction we, therefore, take into consideration future security against disasters, for example, through the building of earthquake-proof houses or through the reforestation of mangrove forests for better coastal preservation.

The 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka: then and now
The 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka: then and now

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