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The Causes And Impacts Of Boxing Day Tsunami

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What is the Boxing Day Tsunami?

The Boxing Day Tsunami was a magnitude 9.2 tsunami which negatively affected society and the environment (University of Southampton,2017) which was caused by an earthquake and could have lessened by the use of buoys. There was no technology used to track tsunamis and warn civilians, it’s tremors from the earthquake before did not give enough time for evacuation which resulted in catastrophic damage. It was created by an undersea 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake which resulted to a megathrust meaning it was powerful tsunami (‘Tsunami’,2009) with a height of a devastating 30m above sea level. This tsunami travelled over 800km/h and affected many countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Maldives. This report will mostly focus on Sumatra, Indonesia as it was the closest (Srinivas, 2015) to the earthquake therefore, most affected. The waves hit Sumatra on 12:58am GMT on the 26th of December 2004 right after Christmas. People had little time to prepare for the tsunami as it was flowing fast and swept debris forcing them to go to higher ground. The boxing day tsunami affected Indonesia and the rest of the countries around the Indian Ocean, socially, economically and environmentally, and made governments try to mitigate future incoming tsunami attacks.

What caused the Boxing Day Tsunami?

The Boxing Day Tsunami was from a megathrust (‘Tsunami’,2009) as a result of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake (Lackner, 2011). This earthquake was formed from the Indo-Australian plate subducting under the Eurasian boundary since the Indo-Australian plate was oceanic and denser than the Eurasian’s continental crust. This created a fault line which started the formation of the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake. Scientist have found in the oceanic plate near Sumatra eroded sediments from the Himalayas. They were thick enough to dehydrate that created strong material allowing the earthquake to slip at the fault to cause a strong earthquake (Science Daily,2017). The water rose up from the fault line but stopped by the pull of gravity making it create waves turning it into a tsunami. This allowed the earthquake to create a tsunami which struck Sumatra. The tsunami’s megathrust was a 15m slip from a 1300km long to 200km wide rupture which was stronger by landslides that were several kilometres long that dragged as much as 10km down the subduction zone (Science Direct, 2011). With the amount of power generated, it had a destructive impact on the people in Sumatra and the environment.

What was the impacts of the Boxing Day Tsunami?

People were affected by the Boxing Day Tsunami negatively socially, economically and environmentally. The tsunami flooded coastal areas of Sumatra (Srinivas, 2015) where there were many people were situated since it was a big time for tourism. The tsunami headed inland and further damaged residents homes with debris that was caught in the water flow. This debris either damaged inland Sumatra or drifted out to sea being piled up onto landfill. The tsunami badly damaged newly created shrimp farms that were transformed from mangroves (Srinivas,2015) which impacted their food supply leaving them with less fresh food.

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This increased the amount of poverty in Indonesia which required reconstruction costing billions of dollars (BBC,2020). The tsunami caught the attention of oversea countries and intervened. International governments helped rebuild Sumatra including Australia, which donated $34.4 Million for Indonesia in the initial aid for help, and then a $1 Billion for reconstruction and recovery (DFAT,2014). Indonesia used the money for the disaster relief and helped the ones in need. Overall, this aid contributed over $5700 USD per person (Crawford, 2012).

This attack also contaminated the drinking water with sewage and diseases removing access to clean drinking water. 70% of the west coast’s farmland was affected by saltwater (Srinivas,2015) cutting off natural resources from the people who needed it most. The mangroves held a barrier for some time against the tsunami but was ultimately damaged. International governments lent support to Indonesia by medically aiding people and giving them shelter (BBC,2020). If people could have mitigated the impacts then it would have been less severe and sustained minimal damage.

What can mitigate future tsunamis?

The Boxing Day Tsunami was a result of the subduction of the Indo-Australian plate under the Eurasian plate and could not been prevented. There were no warning signs or evacuation plans set in place to mitigate any tsunamis as there had been none in the past 200 years. Civilians had minimal knowledge of tsunamis with not enough research at the time and lived on low-lying coastal areas prone to tsunamis (Tsunami Engineering Laboratory,2016). Tremors from the earthquake were set off on the San Andres fault (University of Washington,2008) and did not signify where an earthquake was happening to scientists. The islands of the Indian Ocean created a disaster tsunami program to teach people to be wary of tsunamis and how to react. Their governments have set up an early warning systems to prepare and evacuate as soon as possible and their scientist are researching more about tsunamis and how to counter them (Lackner, 2011) but this will reduce minimal damage. Figure 1 shows the tsunami’s waves spiking up and hitting Sumatra with catastrophic damage from all the geological damage. Scientist have started researching more in depth after the events of the Boxing Day Tsunami. They have created technology such as satellite images to monitor earthquakes from space and buoys which send raw information about the waves in the ocean to scientists (CBS news, 2014). The university of Florida’s geoscientist have tested a shallow water buoy that can detect movements in the Earth’s seafloor. With $822,000 of assistance, the buoy works best in deep water and can forecast the subduction zones successfully (Science Daily,2019) .These technological advancements will lessen the impact by giving a better indication about the tsunami and when it will hit, giving civilians more time to prepare and evacuate. If these buoys were implemented during the 2004 boxing day tsunami, It would have lessened the impacts and destruction.


In conclusion, it is proven that the Boxing Day Tsunami was unpreventable because of the geological subduction creating a tsunami that could have been lessened by technology such as buoys. The tsunami was worse than others because the megathrust and the high pressure of the earthquake which resulted in negatively affecting the society and the environment. These impacts caused a high death toll and unliveable conditions in Sumatra. Even though there was been no tsunamis since 2004, people are still wary about living around the coast. Implementing the preparation and mitigation around the islands of the Indian Ocean, minimise the effects of the tsunamis and creating a safer environment.

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The Causes And Impacts Of Boxing Day Tsunami. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from
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