15 Years On; Behind the Catastrophic Aceh Tsunami and Earthquake

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Laila Afifa

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  • FILE PHOTO: An Indonesian policeman and a volunteer worker carry the body of a tsunami victim past the Rahmatullah mosque which was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in the village of Lhoknga, southwest of Banda Aceh, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra January 23, 2005. December 26 marks 15 years since a 9.1 magnitude quake off the coast of Indonesia's Aceh province triggered a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and nine other countries. REUTERS/Kimimasa Mayama/File Photo

    FILE PHOTO: An Indonesian policeman and a volunteer worker carry the body of a tsunami victim past the Rahmatullah mosque which was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in the village of Lhoknga, southwest of Banda Aceh, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra January 23, 2005. December 26 marks 15 years since a 9.1 magnitude quake off the coast of Indonesia's Aceh province triggered a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and nine other countries. REUTERS/Kimimasa Mayama/File Photo

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Today,  December 26, 2019, marks 15-years after a string of natural disasters - in the form of earthquake and tsunami - hit Aceh in 2004 which caused a global effect. The catastrophe left a deep scar at Gampong Village in Ulee Lheue, Banda Aceh, which is now the mass grave for 14,264 casualties of the disasters. 

    The following are 4 facts behind the Aceh tsunami of 2004, which some refer as the boxing-day tsunami or Indian ocean earthquake and tsunami:

    1. World’s Third Largest Earthquake 

    A major magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Aceh on Sunday, December 26, 2004, at 07:59 Western Indonesia Time (WIB). The earthquake was then revised to be a Magnitude 9.1-9.3 in several international research back in 2006. 

    This marks the third-largest earthquake to ever hit a region in history. The first strongest earthquake happened in Chile in 1960, which scaled at M 9.5 and second was the Alaskan earthquake at M 9.2.

    1. The Quake Caused Tsunamis Across 14 Countries 

    The magnitude 9.0 earthquake’s epicenter was known to come from 160 kilometers north of Simeulue Island at a depth of 30 kilometers. This caused a 30-meter wave that eventually caused tsunami waves at 14 international coastlines; such as in Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, and the Maldives. 

    1. Casualties Exceeded 280,000 Lives 

    The Aceh tsunami and earthquake caused a death toll of up to 280,000, with Indonesia seeing 220,000 deaths, Sri Lanka (35,000 deaths), India (18,000 deaths), and Thailand (8,000 deaths). 

    The tsunami caused serious damages and deaths that spanned to Africa’s Eastern coastline. The furthest documented area affected by the tsunami was Rooi Els in South Africa, which is located 8,000 kilometers from the earthquake’s epicenter. Eight people in South Africa also died due to the rising sea levels.

    1. Released Energy Equivalent to More than 1,500 Times Hiroshima Atomic Bombs

    The energy released by the Aceh earthquake into the Earth’s surface in 2004 is predicted to reach 26 megatons of TNT or 1,500 times Hiroshima atomic bombs. However, it is said to barely reach the levels of former Soviet’s Tsar Bomba. Most of the energy is produced underground equivalent to 9,600 gigatons of TNT. 

    TEMPO.CO