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Home »Occurrence of Tsunamis » Indian Ocean

Occurrences of Tsunamis in the Indian Ocean

Map of historical occurrences of Tsunamis in the Indian Ocean

Karte über Historische Vorkommen von Tsunamis im Indischen Ozean

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The catastrophe of 26 December 2004 in the Indian Ocean

The quake off Sumatra on 26 December 2006 caused a disastrous tsunami that flooded about 10 000 kilometres of coastal regions in the Indian Ocean and caused the loss of 280 000 lives. The sea subsoil off Sumatra had abruptly raised itself up to ten meters within a very short period of time along a distance of about 1 200 kilometres. The movement of the Indian-Australian plate, which moves by six to seven centimeters towards the north-east every year, caused this. The enormous tension energy that developed during this movement was released during this quake. It reached 9,3 on the Richter scale – one of the strongest quakes ever measured.

Results of the missing communication infrastructure

Experts have been critical of the fact that there had not been a tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean like in the Pacific Ocean. According to their information, several thousand lives could have been saved if such a warning system had been in place. The fact that the Pacific tsunami warning system on Hawaii had already predicted a flood wave just minutes after the quake helped nobody. In the affected countries, there were neither contact persons nor communication infrastructures. In addition, warning reports from Thailand were not forwarded to the authorities for fear of impacting on the tourism industry so that many people had little chance of escaping.

Early warning systems in the Indian Ocean

Since November 2005 the tsunami early warning system developed under German participation – Tsunami Early Warning System (TEWS) - was installed in the geologically critical zone of the Indian Ocean, the Sunda Arc which is a geologically active 3 000-kilometre-long curve where the Australia Plate sinks beneath the Eurasia Plate. The TEWS should in future contribute substantially towards the protection of the region from natural disasters like tsunamis. In addition to other organisations and bodies, quake research findings from the Geo Research Centre (GFZ) in Potsdam were used in the development of the system.

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The greatest Tsunami catastrophes worldwide – an overview Further information on the Tsunami Alarm System from the media
Date Sea region Affected region Mag. Max. Wave height Casualties  
17.06.2006 Indonesia Java 7,7 2,00 m 700
28.03.2005 Indonesia Indonesia 8,6 3,00 m k. A.
26.12.2004 Indonesia Off W. Coast Of Sumatra 9,0 34,90 m 283.100
18.06.2000 India South Indian Ocean 7,9 1,00 m k. A.
01.01.1996 Indonesia Sulawesi 7,9 4,00 m 9
02.06.1994 Indonesia Java, Indonesia 7,8 13,00 m 222
06.08.1988 Bangladesh Jamuna River, Aricha, Bangladesh 7,2 k. A. 3
30.11.1983 India Indian Ocean 7,1 2,00 m k. A.
19.08.1977 Indonesia Sunda Islands 8,0 15,00 m 189
23.02.1969 Indonesia Makassar Strait 6,9 4,00 m 600
15.08.1968 Celebes Sea N. Celebes 7,8 1,00 m k. A.
14.08.1968 Indonesia Banda Sea 7,8 10,00 m 200
12.04.1967 Indonesia Bali Sea 7,5 2,00 m k. A.
02.04.1964 Malaysia Malay Peninsula 7,0 1,00 m k. A.
02.04.1964 Indonesia Off Northwest Coast Of Indonesia 7,0 1,00 m k. A.
27.11.1945 Pakistan Makran Coast 8,3 15,00 m k. A.
26.06.1941 India Andaman Sea, E. Coast India 7,6 k. A. 5.000
19.05.1938 Indonesia Makassar Strait 7,6 3,00 m 17
14.02.1934 Philippines W. Luzon Island 7,6 1,00 m k. A.
25.09.1931 Sw. Sumatra Bali Sea 7,5 32,00 m k. A.
11.09.1921 Indonesia S. Java Sea 7,5 1,00 m k. A.
13.02.1918 China Shantou, Kwangtung 7,5 k. A. k. A.
06.02.1908 Indonesia Sw. Sumatra 7,5 2,00 m k. A.
04.01.1907 Indonesia Sw. Sumatra 7,6 3,00 m 400
31.01.1906 Ecuador, Colombia South Pacific Ocean 8,8 5,00 m 1.000
30.09.1899 Indonesia Banda Sea 7,8 12,00 m 3.620
17.05.1892 Malaysia Malay Peninsula 7,5 k. A. k. A.
27.08.1883 Indonesia Indonesia, India, Krakatau - 35,00 m 36.500
17.06.1861 Indonesia Bali Sea 6,8 k. A. k. A.
26.04.1861 Indonesia Bali Sea 7,0 k. A. k. A.
09.03.1861 Indonesia Bali Sea 7,0 k. A. 1.700
16.02.1861 Indonesia Bali Sea 8,5 k. A. 905
13.05.1857 Indonesia Bali Sea 7,0 3,00 m 36
26.11.1852 Indonesia Banda Sea 8,2 8,00 m 60
05.01.1843 Indonesia Sw. Sumatra 7,2 k. A. k. A.
24.11.1833 Indonesia Sw. Sumatra 8,2 k. A. k. A.
29.12.1820 Indonesia Flores Sea 7,5 k. A. 500
18.03.1818 Indonesia Bengkulu, Sumatra 7,0 k. A. k. A.
22.11.1815 Indonesia Bali Sea 7,0 k. A. 1.200
10.02.1797 Indonesia Sw. Sumatra 8,0 k. A. 300
22.06.1768 Indonesia Bali Sea 7,5 k. A. k. A.
Source: National Geophysical Data Center - Tsunami Event Database More informations about the Tsunami Alarm System from the mass media

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The greatest known Tsunamis in the Indian Ocean

17. July 2006: A Tsunami was evoked by a quake south of Java, Indonesia. No warning by the Indonesian government was disseminated and 700 people died. The A3M Tsunami Alarm System had successfully warned its users, no casualties happened.

26 December 2004: The worst tsunami disaster in living history was caused by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean off the island of Sumatra measuring 9,3 on the Richter Scale. More than 300 000 people (many of them European holidaymakers) were killed in eight Asiatic countries (in particular Indonesia/Sumatra, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Myanmar, Maldives, Malaysia and Bangladesh). The flood wave even reached coastlines several thousand kilometres away, like East and Southeast Africa. There were also casualties in Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya, Madagascar and the Seychelles.

27. August 1883: One of the greatest volcanic eruptions ever happened on the island of Krakatau in Indonesia. The eruption destroyed almost two thirds of the island and caused flood waves of 40 meters high, killing 36 000 people.
Even on the coast of Great Britain the tsunami was noticeable through a half-a-meter rise of the sea level. The air pressure wave from the blast travelled around the earth seven times.

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Read more about:
- Occurrences of Tsunamis Worldwide
- Occurrences of Tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean
- Occurrences of Tsunamis in the Atlantic Ocean
- Occurrences of Tsunamis in the Mediterranean

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