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.

'People were well prepared on how to evacuate. Everyone knew what to do, what routes to take,' Major General Gamini Hettiarchchi, the director general of Sri Lanka's Disaster Management Centre said...
The New Humanitarian
'In 2004, deaths and destruction were immense because we (Sri Lanka) as a country were not prepared at all. When a 2004-like tsunami happens again, we must do better,' said Janaka Wijetunga, senior lecturer at the University of Peradeniya...
Science and Development Network
UNDP sponsored disaster preparedness training programmes in Indonesia, including in education. Thousands of Acehnese are now replicating the training session in their own communities, helping expand the awareness raising campaign. UNDP has also helped develop a provincial risk map of key areas in Aceh, supporting the national and the local government to design policies on DRR...
United Nations Development Programme - Indonesia
Seven years after a devastating tsunami struck Sri Lanka, more work still needs to be done to secure an effective early-warning system, officials say. 'We have to be sure that we learn from past events and make suitable adjustments. There are improvements to be made for sure,' a government DMC official conceded...
The New Humanitarian
The New York Times's Andrew K. Revkin looks at the disparity in economic and human losses from the recent earthquake in Japan and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. He includes observations from several scholars and practitioners working in seismic risk, disaster planning and related issues...
New York Times, the

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Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Office - Jakarta

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Save the Children International

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Canadian Red Cross Indonesian Red Cross
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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - Headquarters Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

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United Nations Environmental Programme DEWA/GRID-Europe