December 26, 2004: Indian Ocean tsunami strikes Asia, killing 230,000

A massive earthquake under the Indian Ocean triggered a tsunami which killed almost a quarter of a million people across 13 countries.

On this day in 2004, an earthquake under the Indian Ocean caused a massive tsunami to strike southern Asia, eventually claiming the lives of over 230,000 people.

The earthquake, measuring at least 9.1 on the Richter scale, occurred at 7.58am local time off the west coast of Indonesia. It is now believed to have lifted the sea floor by as much as 10 metres, displacing hundreds of cubic kilometres of sea water away from its epicentre.

The resulting tsunami formed waves as high as 100ft, which travelled at speeds of up to 500mph before slowing as they slammed into the surrounding land masses.

Tsunami elephant

Whole towns and settlements were washed away by the force of the water. It led to the deaths of an estimated 230,000 people in 13 countries – and more than 128,000 in hardest-hit Indonesia, alone.

[August 29, 2005: One million people flee their homes as Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans]

With tens of thousands more injured, and having caused the displacement of over two million people in the region from their homes, the tsunami is considered the most devastating ever recorded – while the earthquake which caused it was the third largest since measurements began.

Tsunami victim

A massive international campaign for humanitarian aid began in the immediate aftermath. Six months after the disaster about £7 billion had been pledged from around the world, with UK citizens donating roughly £330 million – a much larger figure than the British government.

Despite this, the effects of the disaster continue to be felt. While local economies are beginning to win the struggle to recover, the environmental damage, and no less the emotional impact on those who survived, remains harder to quantify.