Advanced Search

Please click here to take a brief survey

Tsunami in Southeast Asia: A Summary Report
Jon Lebkowsky, 27 Dec 04

By Rohit Gupta, Jon Lebkowsky, and Dina Mehta.

This summary post is a living document, expect regular updates.

(For the latest, check the front page.)

At around 7AM last Sunday a rupture occurred along an undersea fault line where the Burma and India plates converge, resulting in a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the fifth largest since scientists started recording and tracking the magnitude of earthquakes in 1899. It was the second large earthquake in the area within a week, the first being a magnitude 8.1 quake between Australia and Antarctica on December 23.

The first quake didn't cause a tsumami because it the tectonic plates slipped horizontally. However the second large event near Southeast Asia was a vertical lift, or "thrust fault," earthquake, which displaced a significant amount of ocean water, triggering tsunamis east and west from the fault line. The force of the tsunmai was undersea, and was therefore not that noticeable from the surface until the waves approached land.

Near landfall the waves, which would have been moving hundreds of miles an hour, slowed and grew as large as two stories in height, according to witnesses. With the catastrophic force of the waves striking without warning, the loss of life and property was significant.

The loss of life was largely preventable had a tsunami detection system been in place. However, that wasn't the case, because tsunamis are rare in the Indian Ocean.

We're also posting other stories on this subject, so check the front page as well.

Best news resources

update: Landmines a potential post-tsunami danger.

update: This may be the costliest disaster ever.

update: The quake rattled the earth's orbit and changed the map of Asia.

update: Loic Le Meur says a French blogger heard about the tsunami three hours in advance via a USGS earthquake alert. If this warning was widely transmitted in the area, how many lives might have been saved? (Thanks, Ethan.)

update: Video from Phuket gives a sense of the Tsunami's power. (Thanks, Cameron.) NOTE: Link no longer appears to work as of 12/28/2004.


The best first hand accounts


Bookmark and Share


Great job. Thanks guys.

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 27 Dec 04

Check out this story:

Posted by: M on 27 Dec 04

Anyone with video of the events??

Posted by: Julina on 27 Dec 04

I am completely distraught over what has happened in regard to the deadly tsunami that has forever changed the lives of everyone that lives along the coastal waters that were brutally plumetted by the brutal and deadly force of this earthquakes after effect. We New Yorker's are praying for you and hope that you are all able to overcome this tragedy. My heart goes to all of you and hope that normalsy returns sooner then later. Erik from NYC

Posted by: Erik from NYC on 28 Dec 04

Could anyone help me find contacts with NGOs involved in the work going on related to this disaster?...I am a Construction Manager and an architect, currently in India.

Posted by: Arusha on 28 Dec 04

I would like to thank the writers of this site for providing alternative news and media coverage of this story. I know how important voices like the ones on this site are. Thanks for all your hard work!

I was watching news coverage of this earlier and commenting on how, I’ll say “odd,” the US disaster relief funding is. The US is sending well over $15 million for this recent disaster, which killed over 33,000. That’s great, though to the victims it’s probably a drop in the bucket compared to what they’ve lost.

Just a few months ago the country of Haiti had 3,000 die by flood. How much money did the US send? How much coverage and media attention did it get? It’s funny how politics sometimes overrule humanitarian efforts.

I hope you continue to provide a new POV of upcoming events!

Posted by: Yoli on 28 Dec 04

Hey Yoli(this is not directed only to you but to those who constantly put down the US) before you get all up in arms over the amount of US aid given you better do a little research. I am sick and tired of people bashing the US when it is the US that gives more aid than most of the rest of the world combined. We give .13 percent of our GDP. THAT NUMBER DOES NOT INCLUDE ALL THE FOOD AID OF WHICH WE GIVE MORE THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.

The US can not save all of the world. And while the policies may not be perfect rest assured we will come through in this disaster. My hopes and prayers go out to all touched by this disaster and so will some of my hard earned money. The US is generous from it's people not necessarily it's government. Remember, By the People, for The People.

Posted by: JC on 29 Dec 04

To JC - I am sick and tired of Americans who believe in their own Manifest Destiny and cannot take any criticism of any kind that suggests America is less than God-blessed and righteous in any action no matter how political or evil. I am American, born and raised in the good ole US. Of course the US uses aid for political reasons. Of course, the US government/media dyad uses the media to project the image it wants. Most other countries are not above doing this either. I wish that it didn't happen, but it does. What irritates me most is the arrogance of the US in denying it does it. What pierces my heart most is the effectiveness of the US government/media dyad in brainwashing so many of its own citizens to believe that they are better than everyone else. We're not better, we're just another player on the world stage, with our own set of virtues and vices. We give far less per capita based on income levels than other countries. Take criticism as feedback that helps us examine ourselves and become better world citizens, and thus better people and a better nation.

Posted by: Clyde on 29 Dec 04

Tsunami relief: If anyone does find resources on how to help the children left fatherless/motherless in a direct manner, please let me know. Our family would like to help.

Posted by: Rhonda on 29 Dec 04 many times when we've (the US) faced natural disasters did you hear about the world coming to our help or aid? I've never seen teams coming from around the world to help in our natural disasters. Did you see the world come to the aid of the US to help dig people out of quakes in California? Never heard of France, Canada, England, Russia, Japan, anyone say we are touched by America's loss and we will send teams to help find victims. Not once did you see anything about aiding victims in the Hurricanes of this past year in Florida from foreign countries. I would suggest you watch your tongue in regards to your views. Our GDP is vastly greater then other economic "superpowers", and this figure does not take into account money given by private charities. If you read and search for figures you will see that American citizens gave $241 Billion lasy year. That's a "B" for billions. Don't become disillusioned yourself by the media with the GDP number. You can combine the dollars given by other super powers, and that does not match our total. I don't think we are any better, but we do come to aid. Who is asked first to help? America.
I can take the criticism, but when numbers are poorly used to make a point that does not hold any validity it's sad to hear someone berate their own.
If you want to make a change, why don't you ask for more of your precious GDP stat to be used to help education, the poor, the elderly, healthcare. Not only here in the US, but on a global level. Be thankful you're in a country that can extend aid, and be looked to first for aid. Until then please do some research before you think your little speach is so great.

On another note....God be with all of those who did not survive and may not survive one of the greatest events of mankind.

Posted by: Chris on 29 Dec 04

To Chris

Canada has offered help to the U.S. many times when natural disasters have occured. But the U.S. refuses our help.

It's not about how much money or aid you give. It's about the rest of the world helping each other as best as they can.

When I watched on TV a father holding his dead son in his arms...I cried. My heart goes out to them.


Posted by: Midnite on 30 Dec 04

I am from India. Can anyone suggest me the name of any organization in India to help me adopt a child who lost her parents as a result of the Tsunami?

Posted by: Atasi Sen on 31 Dec 04

I just found the following information from UNICEF reagarding ADOPTION of the orphans of the tsunami:(imagine a child waiting for a home for two years in such a situation as the tsunami...)

"In conflict and other emergency situations, UNICEF operates on the principle that no child should be adopted abroad unless it is firmly established that he or she has no parents, relatives or community members willing and able to care for the child. In this respect, our efforts to trace families continue for at least two years. We do this because we know from our extensive experience that children who are separated from their families in emergencies are not necessarily orphans.

Our experience also shows that in the midst of conflict and disaster, children are highly vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous individuals looking to make profit, often posing as adoption agents. We are strong supporters of existing international standards designed to protect children from unscrupulous adoptions.

In addition, all affected countries have their own laws and regulations regarding adoption."

Posted by: Angela on 31 Dec 04

I want to say I really appreciate the subtitle of this blog in relation to the Tsunami situation.

"Big Systems - Global Institutions, Governance and History"

It always fills me with awe to consider the scale and dynamism of the living planet we little humans live upon and the living solar system/galaxy/universe we live within. And as I refer to these in strictly scientific terms, it is these terms that spark a truly spiritual sense respect and sense.

We live in a galaxy dancing amongst galaxies; we are a solar system dancing with other solar systems as we circle a black hole at the centre of the milky way; our own sun emits particles at a force that pushes out a protective bubble around our solar system to buffer us from other forces in the universe; our planet is a complex mixing of matter. Part of this matter becomes gaseous and is pushed around our planet to create a bubble similar to the solar bubble. Part of this matter is liquid, 90% of the planet is water. And part of this matter is is solid, moving and melting glaciers, mountains, plains and plates of hard stone as the deep inner earth that go through its own dynamic cycles of heating and cooling and moving that we barely comprehend.

It is upon this dynamic and interrelated mass, this big system that we live upon/within. And thanks to photographs brought back from space in the 1960s, global telecommunications and the development of various global observations systems and human exchange mechanisms we are more and more capable of percieving of this planet, at least, as an integrated and inter-related whole. And somehow, within this contemporary knowledge and media environment, when tragedies like occured in South Asia, or in Ethiopia in the 80s, we cannot but live as global beings with instantaneous reaction to the pains and joys of the whole. And this need somehow leaves us unsatisfied with the international institutions created at the end of WWII to mediate relations amoungst nations, rather than to facilitate global co-existence in the more ecological sense we feel today. That is why it is global institutions, that some part of our collective human spirit longs for, many great people at the United Nations are trying in so many ways. But the UN is still restricted by the sometimes undermediated and underintegrated will of states. There is hope in the ongoing actions of NGOs. And perhaps there is some hope, with a dose of reservation, in the model of integration, exchange and balanced co-existence in the European Union, but this is a logic that is, perhaps rightfully, slow to expand. Nonetheless, it is amazing to observe on this page both the struggle with the largest example of the lingering 20th century governance forms the nation-state and the United States it standard bearer, a nd the use of available tools to "govern" or rather care for the current situation through the desire to adopt children who have lost all. It is always touching to see how the human spirit can break through what restricts it and utilise available tools to excersise compassion. It is notions of global governance that grow from actions like these and tools like this one here that could truly make this tsunami a significant turning point in not only geological, but human history.

Thank you for this page.


Posted by: Tyler Russell on 31 Dec 04

sorry, I'm a little dyslexic. the first paragraph should end with the word "awe".

Posted by: Tyler Russell on 31 Dec 04

My heart is distraught, with a pain so emmense. I ponder about the faith of the children, the natives, the damage souls. The mindset of these people are violated, how can they endure? I offer my soul, my pain, and my will! I will provide anyway that is in my God given ability.
I am deeply and forever empathic!

Raul Hurtado

Posted by: Raul Hurtado on 1 Jan 05

I would be willing to provide a home for a child that may have lost their parents. God Bless the people and their families.

Posted by: valerie on 1 Jan 05

We don't have specific information about adoption, but I found a resource that had quite a bit of information:

If anyone has adoption information specifically related to children orphaned by the tsunami, please post it here. Otherwise my assumption is that you would work through existing channels/agencies, and the site linked above has many reference links to get you started.

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 2 Jan 05

Choice is choice, and all is consequence of choice. This is done on a (1) PERSONAL (physical) level, (2) the MENTAL level (i.e. the quality of thoughts each individual entertains), (3) the MORAL level (i.e. being in accord Universal Principals); and (4) the SPIRITUAL level (i.e. living from The Eternal perspective) - moment-by-moment. However, and collectively speaking, when masses of people personally behave / exercise / play-out base thinking, eventually there is a back-lash from "the world" -- whether in the form of a "natural disaster" or individuals being "driven mad." (EG, the Florida hurricanes occurred just around the time of the election debates -- which State was in question regarding proper counting of votes 4 years ago. "Something" was prodding the Bush family to take notice. And 9/11 was a horrific example of
"the pendulum" swinging out of kilter & into one of direct opposition. And even after this natural disaster -- the dissident Al-Quaida members somehow continue to believe that "they" are doing "God's work" by blowing up bombs and killing hand fulls of people. "Their" day will come. And so will Bush's. And so will mine. We are all going to pay for whatever it is that is lesser that Real Morality or Real Spirituality.
But we can begin making better CHOICES STARTING TODAY!!!!

Meanwhile, while I do hope I might be able to adopt an orphaned child because of that Tsunami disaster -- my personal, mental, moral, & spiritual purpose would be not only to save that child from the disaster, but to save Its soul from the kind of "thinking" generated & and ways of life that the majority of adults in that part of the world have been practicing. I also hope that if the adoptoin opportunity is made available that "someones" do not attempt to turn it into a "money making scam." I am not rich, but with a little heart, and mindful guidance, perhaps I can assist just one soul to mend the matrix of that has been torn.

Poverty is something that occurs in the mind, not in one's "pocket." When anyone does not work -- moment-by-moment -- to Waken and Strengthen and Integrate their MIND, they will "pay" in some form or other. EVERYONE SHOULD RE-THINK WHAT DAILY CHOICES THEY MAKE IN THEIR LIFE AND SEE WHAT ARE THE SIGNS FOLLOWING FOR EACH CHOICE THAT TAKES THE HIGHER PATH, OR the lower path. Additionally, Good Health is a by-product of Rightness-based choices.

Posted by: Despoina on 2 Jan 05

In this time of disaster we all need to look at ourselves and realise what we have and what they have no longer, to adopt a child from this disaster is a human given. Let these children grow up in a world where they will no longer want, will never go hungry, and enjoy all that life has to give. I for one will be putting my hand up for adoption even though we have grandchildren of our own, these children now need us and all that we can give them. Thankyou

Posted by: bernadette on 3 Jan 05

We would like any information on providing a home - even temporarily - for the children. We are so lucky to still have our 2-year old when so many other families have lost so much. So even though she can be a little horror, she is the most precious thing to us and we would love to give another child the same opportunity and love that our own little one enjoys.

Posted by: Deborah and Andrew on 3 Jan 05

Does it really matter who gave the most to this terrible disaster? For God's sake, it's not a competition. The whole point is to help these people. If you want a pat on the back, go lay down in a cow field...

Posted by: Debbie on 3 Jan 05

My understanding from the Social Welfare site of the state of Tamil Nadu (where many lives were lost) and from info from the US state department that adoptions will not be considered before at least 6 months to allow for workers to try and place orphaned children with relatives. I too am eager to open my home to children. My husband's family came from Chennai where much of the destruction occurred and I could see my own childrens faces in the faces I saw on the news. However, I understand the need to do everything possible to reunite families and will continue to monitor the situation and pray that time does not diminish the passion for adopting that so many have expressed.

Posted by: Afreen on 3 Jan 05

Firstly, I can't help feeling that all those people wishing to adopt surviving children from the tsunami disaster that just some of them wish to do so for somewhat selfish reasons.
Secondly no one is better than anyone else. Why do all these countries giving aid make a point of advertising to the world how much aid has been given by their country. Its as if it is some type of contest. Just donate and stop trumpeting about it.
Thirdly, stop saying "you are all in my prayers" and such. You seriously need to question if a God that lets this happen exists.
And finally, to put this in perspective, go out one clear night and look up into the night sky. We are truly all just a speck in the cosmos, a blink of the eye.

I am not cold hearted, just wish to open up peoples minds. This is a tragic disaster but it is not the first and will not be the last.

Posted by: jimbo on 3 Jan 05

In this time of such disaster in Asia why waste time and energy arguing over which country is better? Channel your energies into helping those in need of all our help. Haven't we seen enough devastation and loss of life? And for what? Countries that will never change, they have been that way for hundreds of years. Let's help the people who really need help like the victims of this terrible disaster in Asia? I am so happy to see so many looking to provide homes for orphaned children, as my husband son and I would like to do.

Posted by: Winnie Chicoine on 3 Jan 05


Posted by: M0hammed on 4 Jan 05

I personally would be happy to open my heart and my home to any orphaned child from the tsunami tragedy. I can barely imagine what these children are going through right now, not knowing where there mommies and daddies are. It is unreal the things that they are being forced to experience at such young ages. If anyone knows of any way to find out anything about bringing one of these children (at the least) into our homes, please do not hesitate to let me know something ASAP!! Thanks all, and god bless to those that have helped and to those lost. To those that have been taken by this tragedy, may god welcome you with open arms.

Posted by: Sandy on 5 Jan 05

hi i am gay

Posted by: sean on 6 Jan 05

My husband an I are interested in taking in a child from the Tsunami tragedy(preferably a little girl)to which they have lost both parents and have no one to take care of them. Does anyone know how to find out more about this? We would love nothing more! He had a dream two years ago that we took in a little girl who lost both parents. This could be an answered prayer from GOD!
Please help if possible.

Posted by: Tee on 6 Jan 05

Im sorry for all those people that lost someone in the tsunami. I would love to help you but i can't. I hope soon eveyone recovers from that horrible aciendent.

Posted by: Ana on 8 Jan 05

..........i have nothing to say

Posted by: gsghnjf on 9 Jan 05



MESSAGE (optional):

Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg