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.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

What Is an Earthquake?

The expression "on solid ground" is often used to describe something as stable. But sometimes the solid ground underfoot is not stable. It moves as Earth's tectonic plates move. Sometimes it moves gradually....more

Plate Tectonics

Many forces cause the surface of the Earth to change over time. However, the largest force that changes our planet's surface is the movement of Earth's outer layer through the process of plate tectonics....more

Lunar Eclipse in October 2004

There will be a total lunar eclipse on Wednesday night, October 27, 2004. The Earth's shadow will darken the Moon for more than three and a half hours, while the "total eclipse phase" will span a period...more

Researchers Locate Special Penguin Habitats!

Scientists have recently discovered that thousands of Adelie Penguins thrive in patches of the chilly Southern Ocean near Antarctica's coastline. In these special areas of the ocean, called polynyas,...more

Triggers of Volcanic Eruptions in Oregon's Mount Hood Investigated

A new study has found that a mixing of two different types of magma is the key to the historic eruptions of Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, and that eruptions often happen in a relatively short...more

Oldest Earth Mantle Reservoir Discovered

Researchers have found a primitive Earth mantle reservoir on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. Geologist Matthew Jackson and his colleagues from a multi-institution collaboration report the finding--the...more

Its Not Your Fault A Typical Fault, Geologically Speaking, That Is

Some geologic faults that appear strong and stable, slip and slide like weak faults. Now an international team of researchers has laboratory evidence showing why some faults that 'should not' slip are...more

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