Human Interaction: How Humans Were Affected

250,000 dead. 50,000 injured. 1.7 million homeless. 1

The Indian Ocean earthquake wasn’t the most powerful earthquake in the world 2 but it was by far considered to be the deadliest.

There were many subtle signs of an approaching tsunami before it hit, the most noticeable being a rapidly receding ocean. Unfortunately, this unusual event caught the attention of many people who had not known it was a sign of a tsunami wave, thereby encouraged people to run closer to the sea, instead of further away. Many of these individuals by the shore who had a five minute buffer time to travel to higher ground chose not to, instead choosing to witness the natural phenomenon in front of them. 3

Tsunamis are unique because the ratio of dead to injured is much higher than other natural disasters. In this tsunami, this can be seen quite well as the death toll exceed the injuries by 5 times. The most common cause of tsunami-related mortality was drowning. Factors that caused serious injuries included wounds, lacerations, fractures, and near drowning and/or aspiration. 4 But the deaths and injuries didn’t stop there. With no food and no clean water many of the initial survivors struggled with famine and died days later. Furthermore, a large proportion of initial survivors had open wounds that increased the spread of epidemic diseases around the different countries. 5 In addition to these physical injuries, there were many emotional ones too.

Thousands of loved ones were lost that day. Many children lost one or both parents to the disaster as well as all of their meaningful personal belongings. A large proportion of the survivors struggled with post traumatic stress and/or depression. Read these survivor stories for a better understanding of these emotional effects.  6sri_lanka_tsunmai

There are two main ways in which we can prepare these South Asian countries for future disasters. Education about natural disasters is one. Many of the survivors noted how they hadn’t even heard the word “tsunami” before the unfortunate events on the 26th of December. However, many of those who had fled to safety prior to the wave hitting had learned that a rapidly receding shoreline meant disastrous waves. Another method of preparation is to install early warning systems in these countries so that people are notified of approaching tsunami waves or other natural disasters giving them enough time to prepare for the disaster.

  1. “Tsunami 2004 Facts and Figures.” Tsunami 2004. Last modified May 2013. Accessed December 15, 2014.
  2. This earthquake measured a 9.0 on the Richter scale, only topped by the 9.2 earthquake in Alaska and the 9.5 earthquake in Chile
  3. “The Deadliest Tsunami in History?,” (Page 2).
  4. Doocy, Shannon, Amy Daniels, Anna Dick, and Thomas D. Kirsch. “The Human Impact of Tsunamis: a Historical Review of Events 1900-2009 and Systematic Literature Review.” PLOS Current: Disasters. Last modified April 16, 2013. Accessed December 15, 2014.
  5. “The Deadliest Tsunami in History?,” (Page 2).
  6. “Tsunami 2004 Survivor Stories.” Tsunami 2004. Last modified May 2013. Accessed December 15, 2014.

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