Deadly tsunami leads to better alert system
THE Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 is believed to be the deadliest tsunami in history, killing more than 230,000 people across 14 countries. The death toll included 26 Australians.
The disaster began when a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck in the Indian Ocean, 250km south-east of the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh on December 26.
Within 20 minutes of the quake, tsunami waves hit Banda Aceh and continued to radiate from the quake epicentre, hitting coastlines in Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and, about seven hours later, in Africa.
According to a National Geographic report, Australian seismic stations were the first to trigger an alert at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii but there was no rigid warning system for Indian Ocean countries in place. The centre had no contacts for affected countries in the Indian Ocean.
Following the disaster more than $14 billion in aid was pledged by the international community.
Also in response to the disaster, the Australian Government at the time decided to strengthen the Australian tsunami warning system.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology website states that Australia is bound on the north-west, north-east and east by about 8000km of active tectonic plate boundary capable of generating a tsunami, which could reach our coastline within two to four hours.
The Australian Government committed $68.9 million over four years to establish an Australian Tsunami Warning System.
This included the establishment of the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre with 24-hour monitoring and analysis capacity for Australia, and the upgrade and expansion of sea-level and seismic monitoring networks around Australia and in the Indian and South West Pacific Oceans. The project was completed in 2009. The word tsunami is Japanese, and translates to “harbour wave”.
A rescue and clean-up crew survey a flooded lobby at the Seapearl Beach Hotel along Patong Beach on Phuket Island, Thailand, on December 28, 2004 following the Boxing Day tsunami.