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.


A participatory assessment of the conditions for strengthening the technology–community linkages of tsunami early warning systems in the Indian Ocean:

This SEI study illustrates that early warning systems established in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand

Stockholm Environment Institute
This publication has been created with the intention of capturing key characteristics of the response and lessons learned, in a widely available format. It is intended to provide a valuable reference in future disaster responses. The content is based on the DEC Assurance Mission (Arup, 2007) as well as the authors observations and experiences on previous assignments in Aceh during the post-tsunami response. This is supported by further research and consultation, additional information provided by DEC Member Agencies and other documentation of the response. The views expressed are those of the authors.
Disaster Emergency Committee Arup International Development Practical Action
This publication provides a succinct account of the damage caused by the tsunami and its far-reaching impact on the lives and livelihoods of people in coastal Tamil Nadu. The book also documented the speedy decisions and the concerted rescue and relief measures taken by Government of Tamil Nadu and partners.
India - government
In this publication the Government of Tamil Nadu gives details regarding rehabilitation and the reconstruction programmes undertaken to revive coastal communities affected by the Tsunami in 2004.
India - government
This case study is part of the ODI HPG research programme on the role of the affected state in humanitarian action and aims to describe the essential elements of approach to disaster management as seen in its response to the 2001 Gujarat earthquake and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It also analyses policy trends in Disaster Management Act.
Overseas Development Institute
For the first time, NOAA scientists have demonstrated that tsunamis in the open ocean can change sea surface texture in a way that can be measured by satellite-borne radars. The finding could one day help save lives through improved detection and forecasting...
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
A report on Red Cross risk-reduction effort for tsunamis in Tanzania which involves communications, risk mapping, evacuation procedures, supplementary first-aid training and educational noticeboards....
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
This report is a follow-up evaluation of linkages between immediate relief, rehabilitation (or reconstruction) and development (LRRD) related to the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. The LRRD2 evaluation report covers experiences up to the end of 2008 in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, i.e. from the four years after the disaster. A number of organisations and government agencies have supported this evaluation in various ways, with the aim to provide conclusions and lessons learned that are useful for mitigating the consequences of possible future disasters.
DARA - Spain Swedish Agency for International Development Cooperation

This report describes how Plan’s Child Centred Community Development (CCCD) approach worked following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and how children have been successfully included in social decision-making. Its aim is to help Plan and other agencies

Plan International

This document, prepared with environmental research group Equilibrium, examines in detail the impacts of floods in Bangladesh (2000), Mozambique (2000 and 2001) and Europe (2006), heat waves and forest fires in Portugal (2003), an earthquake in Pakistan

World Wide Fund For Nature