Map of Tsunami affected areas
THE ACCOUNT OF THE GREAT TSUNAMI DECEMBER 26TH 2004
THE SUMATRA-ANDAMAN ISLANDS EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI OF 26 DEC 2004
This is the fourth largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and is the
largest since the 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska earthquake. The earthquake
itself caused severe damage and casualties in northern Sumatra, Indonesia and
in the Nicobar Islands, India. The earthquake casualties are included with the
tsunami statistics below.
The earthquake was felt at the following selected localities:
Indonesia: IX at Banda Aceh
VIII at Meulaboh
IV at Medan and Sampali
III at Bukittinggi, Parapat and Payakumbuh
Felt at Jakarta
India: VII at Port Blair, Andaman Islands
IV at Madras
III at Bengaluru and Vishakhapatnam
Felt at Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar, Calcutta and Kochi
Malaysia: V at Gelugor Estate
IV at Sungai Ara
III at Alor Setar, George Town, Kampong Tanjong Bunga,
Kuala Lumpur and Kulim
Thailand: V at Hat Yai
IV at Bangkok
III at Chiang Mai and Phuket
Myanmar: IV at Mandalay
III at Rangoon
Singapore: II on Singapore
Bangladesh: III at Dhaka
Felt at Chittagong
Sri Lanka: II at Kandy and in other parts of Sri Lanka
Maldives: IV at Male (nearly 2500 km from the epicenter)
Guam: Felt by people in a high rise building at Hagatna (more than
5400 km from the epicenter)
The tsunami from this earthquake caused extreme destruction in South Asia,
was recorded nearly world-wide and killed more people than any tsunami in
recorded history. In total, at least 283,100 people were killed, 14,100 are
missing and 1,126,900 were displaced by the earthquake and tsunami:
At least 108,100 people were killed, 127,700 are missing and presumed dead and
426,800 were displaced by the earthquake and tsunami in Aceh and Sumatera Utara
Provinces, Indonesia. About 70 percent of the small-scale fishing fleet was
destroyed. Tsunami runup heights of more than 30 meters were observed along the
west coast of Sumatra.
At least 30,900 people were killed, 5,400 missing and 552,600 displaced by the
tsunami in Sri Lanka, where wave heights were estimated to be 5-15 meters.
About 66 percent of the fishing fleet was destroyed and 10 of 12 major fishing
harbors in the country had some damage.
At least 10,700 people were killed, 5,600 missing and 112,500 displaced in
Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and Andaman and Nicobar
Islands, India. Wave heights were estimated to be more than 20 meters
in the Andaman Islands and 10 meters on the east coast of India.
At least 5,300 people were killed, 8,400 injured and 3,100 missing along the
west coast of Thailand, where wave heights were estimated to be as high as
3-5 meters in the Phuket area.
The tsunami also caused casualties and/or damage in the following countries:
Somalia: at least 150 people killed and about 5,000 displaced.
Maldives: 82 people killed, 26 missing and more than 21,600 displaced.
Malaysia: 68 people killed, 6 missing and about 4,200 displaced.
Myanmar: 90 people killed, 10 missing and 3,200 displaced.
Tanzania: 10 people killed.
Seychelles: 3 people killed.
Bangladesh: 2 people killed.
Kenya: 1 person killed.
Madagascar: about 1,000 people displaced.
Mauritius: some damage.
Mozambique: tsunami was observed, but no damage reported.
In Australia, the tsunami caused minor damage at Geraldton and Mangles Bay.
A 30 centimeter wave was observed at Penguin Island. People were swept into
the ocean at Delambre Island and Geographe Bay, but all survived. The tsunami
was observed at Busselton.
Maximum tsunami heights, peak-to-trough in centimeters, were recorded at the
following selected tide stations:
Kochi, India 130
Tuticorin, India 210
Vishakhapatnam, India 240
Diego Garcia, Chagos Archipelago 80
Colombo, Sri Lanka 260
Salalah, Oman 250
Lamu, Kenya 120
Zanzibar, Tanzania 80
Male, Maldives 210
Port Louis, Mauritius 210
Port Elizabeth, South Africa 273
Richards Bay, South Africa 165
East Ongul Island, Antarctica 75
Cocos Island, Australia 42
Esperance, Western Australia, Australia 80
Hillarys, Western Australia, Australia 90
Portland, Victoria, Australia 85
Mid-ocean, about 5 S, SSE of Sri Lanka 100 approximate
(from Jason 1 satellite altimeter)
Rosslyn Bay, Queensland, Australia 25
Spring Bay, Tasmania, Australia 60
Chatham Island, New Zealand 35
Jackson Bay, South Island, New Zealand 65
Napier, North Island, New Zealand 30
Timaru, South Island, New Zealand 80
Port Vila, Vanuatu 15
Nukualofa, Tonga 10
Suva, Fiji 11
Pago Pago, American Samoa 10
Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia 5
Noumea, New Caledonia 10
Severo-Kurilsk, Russia 29
Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada 9
Tofino, British Columbia, Canada 15
Adak, Alaska, U.S. 21
Sand Point, Alaska, U.S. 28
Crescent City, California, U.S. 61
Point Reyes, California, U.S. 39
Port San Luis, California, U.S. 53
San Diego, California, U.S. 32
Hilo, Hawaii, U.S. 18
Kahului, Hawaii, U.S. 30
Neah Bay, Washington, U.S. 13
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 24
Manzanillo, Mexico 80
Acajutla, El Salvador 32
Baltra Island, Galapagos, Ecuador 36
Callao, Peru 68
Arica, Chile 72
Puerto Williams, Chile 29
Valparaiso, Chile 18
Cape Town, South Africa 96
Port Noloth, South Africa 50
Newlyn, United Kingdom 16
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada 43
Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S. 22
Port Canaveral, Florida, U.S. 34
San Juan, Puerto Rico 4
Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands 18
Imbituba, Brazil 150 approximate
Rio de Janiero, Brazil 30
K. Abe has computed a tsunami magnitude (Mt) of 9.1 for this event.
Landslides and approximately 2 meters of subsidence were observed in Sumatra.
A mud volcano became active near Baratang, Andaman Islands on December 28.
Gas emissions were reported in Arakan, Myanmar. Seiches occurred in Jharkhand,
Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal, India and as far away as Tulsa County,
Oklahoma, United States. Water level fluctuations occurred in wells as
far away as Florida, Nebraska and Virginia, United States.
U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Situation Reports and
ReliefWeb website as of 2 Feb 2005. For updates, see
A. Rabinovich and J. Gower, Institute of Ocean Sciences, Canada, website
NOAA, West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center, webpage on the Indian
Ocean tsunami, http://wcatwc.arh.noaa.gov/IndianOSite/IndianO12-26-04.htm.
K. Abe and Y. Tsuji, et al., Earthquake Research Institute, University
of Tokyo, Special Event Page, at
S. Martin, Amateur Seismic Centre, Pune, India, Special Event page, at
V. Dent, University of Western Australia, Asian Tsunami effects in Western
CNN website, at http://www.cnn.com/.
BBC World Service website, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/index.shtml.
Felt reports contributed to USGS "Did you feel it?" webpages, at:
The devastating earthquake of 26 December 2004 occurred as thrust-faulting on
the interface of the India plate and the Burma plate. In a period of minutes,
the faulting released elastic strains that had accumulated for centuries from
ongoing subduction of the India plate beneath the overriding Burma plate.
In a broad sense, the India and Australian plates move toward the north-
northeast with respect to the interior of the Eurasia plate with velocities of
about 60 mm/y in the region of the earthquake. In the region of northern
Sumatra and the Nicobar Islands, most of the relative motion of India/Australia
and the Eurasia plate is accommodated at the Sunda trench and within several
hundred kilometers to the east of the Sunda trench, on the boundaries of the
Burma plate. The direction in which India/Australia converges toward Eurasia
is oblique to the trend of the Sunda trench. The oblique motion is partitioned
into thrust-faulting and strike-slip faulting. The thrust faulting occurs on
the interface between the India plate and the western margin of the Burma plate
and involves slip directed at a large angle to the orientation of the trench.
The strike-slip faulting occurs on the eastern boundary of the Burma plate and
involves slip directed approximately parallel to the trench. The 26 December
main shock occurred as the result of thrust faulting on the western Burma-plate
boundary, but many strike-slip faulting aftershocks occurred on the eastern
Currently available models of the 26 December main-shock fault displacement
differ in many interesting details, but are consistent in implying that fault-
rupture propagated to the northwest from the epicenter and that substantial
fault-rupture occurred hundreds of kilometers northwest of the epicenter. The
data upon which the modeling is based do not permit confident resolution of the
extent of rupture beyond about 500 km northwest of the main-shock epicenter.
The width of the earthquake rupture, measured perpendicular to the Sunda
trench, is estimated to have been about 150 kilometers and the maximum
displacement on the fault plane about 20 meters. The sea floor overlying the
thrust fault would have been uplifted by several meters as a result of the
The zone of aftershocks to the 26 December earthquake is over 1300 km long.
Because aftershocks occur on and very near the fault-planes of main shocks, the
length of the aftershock zone suggests that main-shock fault-rupture may have
extended north of the epicenter by an amount significantly larger than 500 km.
However, a great earthquake may also trigger earthquake activity on faults that
are distinct from the main-shock fault plane and separated from it by tens or
even hundreds of kilometers. We will not know until further analysis how much
of the 26 December aftershock zone may correspond to activity in the immediate
vicinity of the main-shock rupture, and how much may correspond to activity
remote from the main-shock rupture.
Since 1900, earthquakes similarly sized or larger than the 26 December
earthquake have been the magnitude 9.0 1952 Kamchatka earthquake, the magnitude
9.1 1957 Andreanof Islands, Alaska, earthquake, the magnitude 9.5 1960 Chile
earthquake, and the magnitude 9.2 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska, earthquake.
All of these earthquakes, like the one on 26 December, were mega-thrust events,
occurring where one tectonic plate subducts beneath another. All produced
destructive tsunamis, although deaths and damage from the 26 December tsunami
far exceed those caused by tsunamis associated with the earlier earthquakes.