Remembering the Indian Ocean Tsunami

I remember the first week after the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami. There were many horrific images of both loss of life, and devastation. Relatives came over, because it was the holidays; and I was glued to the TV. I equate it to watching the aeroplanes fly into the World Trade Center. You could watch it a million times, and still have trouble grasping what you were watching. After all, who would want to watch those images over and over again. Yet, there I was.

Approximately 275,000 people died in that event. Lets put that into perspective. With all the coverage hurricane Katrina got, the official death toll is 1,302. The Indian Ocean tsunami caused over 211 times the death that Katrina caused. Yet, American journalists were calling it “our tsunami.”

It has been almost eleven months since the Sumatra earthquake; and I wanted to spend some time remembering the disaster. I came across an article announcing scientific data about the earthquake, that again puts me in awe of that event. We were told, not long after the quake, that it was strong enough to affect the earth’s speed of rotation. The quake vibrated the entire planet as much as a centimetre.
In May 2005, scientists published a report of gathered data:
– the typical duration of an earthquake is a few seconds. The Sumatra quake lasted around ten minutes! That set a record for the longest quake ever recorded. Given the rest of the facts (following), you can understand why it took so long.
– it also set a record for the longest fault rupture. The gash in the earth’s seabed was 800 miles (1287km). In other words, the distance from Los Angeles to Portland.
– it took ten minutes for 800 miles of earth to rise how much? An average of 16.5 feet (5 metres). Some places moved up as much 50 feet! (20 meters)

This thing was a monster, that could only measure very high in magnitude (between 9.1 and 9.3). Not a record there, but if 9.3 is correct, it would be the second highest on record.

For the past eleven months, I had been under the impression that the Indian Ocean Tsunami had been the deadliest natural disaster in history. I was quite surprised to learn that I was wrong. It’s not even close. Get this: In 1931, the Huang He river in China flooded, killing between 850,000 to 4 million people….Wow.

All of these numbers and records, make it hard to really fathom why something much smaller is still big news. I then came across this photograph. It’s hard to find words to describe how it makes me feel. I want to cry, but at the same time, I’m in awe. This picture is not for the faint-hearted:

1 Response

  1. spence December 27, 2007 / 5:58 pm

    the link to the photo no longer works…

Comments are closed.