More than 20,000 Feared Dead from Massive Indian Ocean Tidal Waves

December 27, 2004

A powerful undersea earthquake near the island of Sumatra triggered the worst series of tidal waves, or tsunamis, in living memory. Preliminary estimates put the death toll at 23,000. Sri Lanka posted the worst losses with more than 11,000 people reported dead.

According to the BBC, the latest figures from other countries included the following: Indonesia: 4,500 dead; India: 2,958 dead; Thailand: 839 dead; Malaysia: 44 dead; Maldives: 32 dead; Burma: 30 dead; Bangladesh: 2 dead, and an unknown number of victims along the east coast of Africa.

Many tourist resorts in Thailand, including the island of Phuket, and in the Maldives were devastated by walls of water 20 to 30 feet (6.5 to 10 meters) high. Property damage is expected to be extensive. Most of the deaths and property loses occurred in coastal areas, as the waves swept over broad swathes of beaches and low lying islands. Many villages were reported to have completely disappeared.

The most powerful earthquake in 40 years, which registered between 8.9 and 9 on the Richter scale, caused the deadly tsunamis. The quake occurred along a fault line west of the island of Sumatra, and scientists have estimated it displaced up to 30 feet (10 meters) of the sea floor over a length of 200 miles (320 kms.). The consequences of such a massive quake were clearly predictable, but unlike the situation in the Pacific Ocean, where warning stations have been established, no warning system exists in the Indian Ocean. Residents therefore had virtually no notice of the impending disaster.

Preliminary comments from the insurance industry have indicated that large losses may be expected. In an interview with the BBC Marie-Louise Rossi, the Chief Executive of the International Underwriting Association of London (IUA) said that both insurers and reinsurers anticipate claims for property losses and business interruption. While much of the destruction occurred in rural areas and many of the structures destroyed were uninsured, the waves heavily damaged port facilities and resort properties throughout the region, which were either insured locally, or through international carriers.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.