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Earthquake in the Indian Ocean Causes a Massive Tsunami
News story originally written on January 5, 2005

On the morning of December 26th, 2004, an enormous earthquake occurred below the Indian Ocean, 150 km west of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The earthquake, caused by moving tectonic plates, was the most powerful to occur on our planet in the past 40 years, a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter Scale. During the earthquake, part of the sea floor rose about 10 meters. This caused instability in the seawater above and generated huge tsunami waves that spread across the Indian Ocean.

The enormous waves moved quickly across the ocean before hitting coastal areas causing massive destruction to towns and resorts along the coast. Over 150,000 people were killed as the tsunami waves hit the coasts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, and the east coast of Africa. There was very little time to sound alarms and get people away from the coast.

The more you know about how the Earth works, the more you can keep yourself and others as safe as possible from natural disasters. We at Windows to the Universe would like to congratulate Tilly Smith, a 10-year-old British girl who used her knowledge about how tsunamis works to save 100 people during the event. Tilly learned about tsunamis at school two weeks before the tsunami hit where her family was vacationing in Phuket, Thailand. She saw the water drawing out quickly from the shore and remembered that this can happen before a tsunami wave hits the coast. Thanks to Tilly, her mother, and the hotel staff, everyone was cleared off the beach minutes before the wave arrived.

Last modified May 21, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA