2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami


The morning of December 26, 2004 saw the worst disaster in Indonesia’s history. A magnitude (M) 9.1 submarine earthquake occurred along the Indian Ocean subduction zone triggering a massive tsunami that destroyed 800 km of the coastal areas of Aceh Province with inundation observed as far as 6 km inland. Post disaster damage and loss assessment revealed staggering numbers on the calamity that include over 220,000 human fatalities and the destruction of 139,000 houses, 73,869 hectares of agricultural lands, 2,618 kilometers of roads, 3,415 schools, 104,500 small-medium enterprises, 13,828 fishing boats, 119 bridges, 669 government buildings, 517 health facilities, 1,089 worship places, 22 seaports, and 8 airports and airstrips (BRR-Agency for the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Aceh and Nias, 2009). Added to these statistics, more than half a million tsunami survivors were internally displaced and hundreds of thousands more lost their livelihoods.

Almost within hours, news on the tsunami devastation of Aceh spread quickly around the world eventually sparking an unprecedented massive global community emergency response and relief effort. Given the extremely urgent situation on the grounds, the Government of Indonesia agreed to allow international military personnel coming from Asian and European countries, the United States, and Australia, among others, to participate in the disaster response operations that also included more than 600 local, national, and international non-governmental, community-based, civil society, multi-lateral, and UN organizations. Some of these organizations continued to be involved in the post-tsunami reconstruction and recovery phase. The reconstruction costs were estimated to be US $4.9 billion while committed funds from various sources including the international community donors and the Government of Indonesia amounted to US$ 6.7 billion (BRR, 2009).

Before embarking on a painstaking reconstruction effort, the Government of Indonesia created a “Master Plan for the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Aceh and Nias, North Sumatra”. Parallel to this effort, the government also established the Agency for the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Aceh and Nias (BRR), an ad-hoc agency, first of its kind, mandated to implement and coordinate government-funded projects and coordinate donor- and NGO- funded projects from April 2005 to April 2009. The “Build Back Better” philosophy was adopted in the reconstruction effort. This guiding principle seeks to ensure that every reconstruction effort shall integrate the concept of Disaster Risk Reduction that would help reduce future disaster risk and build resilience. By the end of the project period, BRR had implemented and coordinated a total of roughly 12,000 projects.

Post-tsunami recovery and reconstruction efforts generally resulted in significant achievements in terms of housing, infrastructure, environment, agriculture, livelihood, health, local economy, education, and disaster management sectors. The enactment of Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 24/ 2007 concerning Disaster Management and the subsequent transformation of disaster management entities marked a major shift in disaster management paradigm in Indonesia which should help prepare Indonesia in responding more effectively to future disaster events.


In Natural hazards and earth system sciences, 11, 2011, doi:10.5194/nhess-11-67-2011:

In response to the disastrous tsunami event on 26 December 2004 and to support the implementation of a reliable tsunami early warning system (TEWS) in the Indian Ocean

Copernicus Publications
More needs to be done, and done now, to better prepare the region to face such disasters. Since the 2004 Tsunami, Thailand and its partners have set a powerful example by showing how regional solidarity combined with multilateral cooperation can be effective...
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
This paper seeks to contribute to the analytical base around build back better through an examination of its application in three disaster responses, the Indian Ocean tsunami in Aceh, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the earthquake in Haiti.
Overseas Development Institute
by  Jefri Aries/IRIN http://www.irinnews.org/report/99378/lessons-from-aceh-s-build-back-better-experience
Lessons from the reconstruction process in Indonesia’s Aceh Province following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami can better shape the long-term impact of ‘build back better’ projects, and experts say those lessons are particularly relevant in the context of the Philippines, where more than one million homes were damaged or destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan...
The New Humanitarian
This publication attempts to fill the gaps in documentation following the earthquake and tsunami of 26 December 2004 by collating all relevant information and analyses to see how the parts fit together. One of the goals of this book includes gaining a further understanding of the impacts such events have on the affected societies, the pathophysiology of disasters, the effects of interventions, and the impact of preparedness measures. It covers an analysis of health before, during and after the emergency closely reviewing these in the context of all the players, socio-political factors, and various systems that determine how a society/community functions.
World Health Organization - Regional Office for South-East Asia
This document relates the experiences of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) in the wake of the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka.
United Nations Human Settlements Programme - Headquarters
According to Rana Mathew, former Public Relations Officer of ANI, 'The mangroves played a crucial role in saving the North Andaman Islands from the tsunami waters. The thick mangrove forest surrounding the island chain provided a protective cover saving many lives'...
Inter Press Service International Association
This study documents IFRC’s response and recovery operation in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Over 4.8 million people benefited from a wide range of Red Cross Red Crescent support that included reconstruction of physical infrastructure such as homes, schools and health facilities as well as long-term recovery and disaster risk reduction programming. It reflects the scale of what is recorded as the deadliest tsunami in history – one that swept through coastal areas of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand, and ten other Indian Ocean countries.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
This research aims to understand the inter-organizational network typology of large scale disaster intervention in developing countries and to understand complexity of post disaster intervention through the use of network theory based on empirical data from post tsunami reconstruction in Aceh, Indonesia, during 2005-2007. It addresses the ‘poly-centric’ features of emergency and reconstruction management, which promotes the notion that there are many overlapping centers of authority and responsibility for disaster risk reduction and post disaster intervention.
Institute of Resource Governance and Social Change
This publication outlines Sri Lanka's new approach to dealing with natural hazards in the context of disaster risk management. Issues addressed: (i) the need for education in disaster risk management and Sri Lanka's policy of teaching disaster safety in schools; (ii) the 'Disaster Risk Management & Psycho-social Care' project; (iii) results from the project, including educational facilities being better prepared for emergencies; and (iv) factors for success, including motivating political decision-makers, coordinating inter- and intra-ministerial cooperation, and utilising existing structures and processes to integrate disaster safety integration.
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit