The Indian Ocean Tsunami: The Global Response to a Natural Disaster

The Indian Ocean Tsunami: The Global Response to a Natural Disaster

The Indian Ocean Tsunami: The Global Response to a Natural Disaster

The Indian Ocean Tsunami: The Global Response to a Natural Disaster

Synopsis

On December 26, 2004, a massive tsunami triggered by an underwater earthquake pummeled the coasts of Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and other countries along the Indian Ocean. With casualties as far away as Africa, the aftermath was overwhelming: ships could be spotted miles inland; cars floated in the ocean; legions of the unidentified dead-an estimated 225,000-were buried in mass graves; relief organizations struggled to reach rural areas and provide adequate aid for survivors. Shortly after this disaster, researchers from around the world traveled to the regions most devastated areas, observing and documenting the tsunamis impact. The Indian Ocean Tsunami: The Global Response to a Natural Disaster offers the first analysis of the response and recovery effort. Editors Pradyumna P. Karan and S. Subbiah, employing an interdisciplinary approach, have assembled an international team of top geographers, geologists, anthropologists, and political scientists to study the environmental, economic, and political effects of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The volume includes chapters that address the tsunamis geo-environmental impact on coastal ecosystems and groundwater systems. Other chapters offer sociocultural perspectives on religious power relations in South India and suggest ways to improve government agencies response systems for natural disasters. A clear and definitive analysis of the second deadliest natural disaster on record, The Indian Ocean Tsunami will be of interest to environmentalists and political scientists alike, as well as to planners and administrators of disaster-preparedness programs.

Excerpt

Few natural disasters have captured the world’s attention as did the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004. Tsunami, a Japanese term, refers to earthquakegenerated ocean waves associated with the sudden rise or fall of the seafloor that devastate coastal areas (Cartwright and Nakamura 2008). The emotional fascination with the tsunami was propelled by the mass media and live television images of the disaster (Time Special Report, January 10, 2005; Newsweek, January 10, 2005; U.S. News & World Report, January 10, 2005). It killed over 200,000 people and damaged the livelihoods and homes of over 1 million people around the Indian Ocean, from western Indonesia and southern Thailand to coastal Sri Lanka, southeastern India, and the Maldives. The tsunami produced an eerie, surreal landscape of destruction: huge ships and boats stranded miles inland, cars in the sea, lone two- or three-story buildings standing over vast open stretches of the flattened rubble of houses (Greenhough, Jazeel, and Massey 2005). Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand were the hardest hit. Citizens of forty other countries who were in the area were feared dead (Mottet 2005). Local officials and residents faced unprecedented challenges during the hours immediately following the tsunami. These included removing the debris that covered bodies, body identification, health and sanitation issues, and the necessity of creating mass graves. Prior experience with disasters, familiarity with the local area, the quality of preexisting networks among officials, a strong desire to rescue those yet living, and the presence of linkages between government and nongovernmental organizations were critical factors influencing the efficient management of mass fatality in areas impacted by the tsunami (Phillips et al. 2008). Over 9,000 foreign tourists in the area were among the dead or missing.

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