The 2004 Tsunami in Thailand

2021-05-13 19:02:12
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Commonly known as The Boxing Day Tsunami, or the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the earthquake took place on the 26th day of December 2004 off the west coast Sumatra, Indonesia at approximately 00:58:53 UTC (Prasartritha, Tungsiripat, and Warachit, 2008, p.9). This shock had a moment magnitude of about 9.1-9.3 with the Mercalli intensity of violent which is the maximum there has ever been. Specifically, the tsunami resulted from the undersea megathrust earthquake occurring as a consequence of the subduction of the Indian plate by the Burma plate. According to Jankaew et al. (2008, p.1228), the resulting effect was the surprising tsunamis that hit the coasts of over 14 countries most of which border the Indian Ocean. The affected countries were India, Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives, Burma (Myanmar), Somalia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Africa, Bangladesh, Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, and the Seychelles. The ultimate results of the tsunami were the death of over 230,000 people over those 14 countries and the inundating of the coastal communities up to 100 ft high.

The most affected by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami was Indonesia as more lives were lost as well as the mass destruction of property. However, Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka were also adversely affected. In some of the coastal towns, more than 70 percent of the villagers lost their lives which led to near loss of civilization in those particular towns (Jankaew et al., 2008, p.1233). Additionally, more than half a million people were affected as their jobs were destroyed and their livelihood cut for several months. Moreover, more than 140, 000 houses were destroyed. An additional 1.7 million people were rendered homeless while more than half a million were seriously injured. More than 1,000 of those people killed were from German and Sweden and had gone to the coastal towns as tourists. It is also contended that more than 150,000 people might have lost their lives from diseases that were brought about by the waters that had flown to high areas. The energy that was released from the tsunami was equated with 23,000 times the Hiroshima-type atomic bombs in Japan. Moreover, waves traveled more than two kilometers from the Indian Ocean to the inland.

Focusing solely on Thailand, the tsunami hit the southwest coast and specifically, the southern parts of Thailand. This was more than 500 kilometers from Sumatra, which was the epicenter of the tsunami. The damage that was caused as well as the lives that were lost were compounded by the fact that Thailand had several world famous resorts such as Phuket Island, Khao Lak, Koh Racha Yai, the Phi Phi Islands Koh Lanta Yai and Ao Nang of Krabi province, the Surin Islands and the Similan islands which are offshore islands. However, according to Sakuna et al. (2007, p.131), the hardest hit islands in Thailand were Phuket and the island of Khao Lak. Gauging from the areas of the Thailand coast where the tsunami occurred, the height was more than 6m in the Khao Lak, more than 3 meters along the west coast, and 3 meters along the south shore, 2 meters high on the east coast of Phi Phi Island and over 4 meters on the islands of Phi Phi. All these were hit by the tsunami for over 2 hours when the waves were moving from the ocean waters to the mainland (Sakuna et al., 2007, p. 115).

The Thailand Island that was hardest hit was Khao Lak. In this regard, some of the heights of the tsunami were 10 meters while the inundated depths measured 4-7 meters in the south of the island of Khao Lak. From the surveys that were later conducted, the tsunami inundated the third floor of a resort in the Khao Island. Compared to the Phuket Island, the tsunami heights in Khao Lak were higher. This difference in height was caused by the local bathymetry which is off the Khao Lak. When the residents of Khao Lak and the affected tourists were interviewed, it was established that the wave that was leading the others produced an initial depression known as a tsunami drawback (disappearing sea effect) while the second one was the largest.

The second most major hit in Thailand happened at the Phuket and specifically, in the Patong Beach with heights of between 5-6 meters while the inundated depth was 2 meters. However, from the west coast of Thailand, the tsunami heights became lower. For instance, in the Karon beach which is on the west coast, the coastal road played a very critical role as it was higher than the shore and hence acted as the seawall thereby protecting the adjacent hotel (Sakuna et al., 2012, p.931). On the islands of Phi Phi, the North Bay and the Don Island were hit as they were in the direction of the approach of the tsunami. According to the testimonies of eyewitnesses, the central area was completely washed away (Jankaew et al., 2008, p.1230). From this evidence, the tsunami significantly affected the coastal parts of Thailand.

References

Jankaew, K., Atwater, B.F., Sawai, Y., Choowong, M., Charoentitirat, T., Martin, M.E. and Prendergast, A., 2008. Medieval forewarning of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Thailand. Nature, 455(7217), pp.1228-1231.

Prasartritha, T., Tungsiripat, R. and Warachit, P., 2008. The revisit of 2004 tsunami in Thailand: characteristics of wounds. International wound journal, 5(1), pp.8-19.

Rossetto, T., Peiris, N., Pomonis, A., Wilkinson, S.M., Del Re, D., Koo, R. and Gallocher, S., 2007. The Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004: observations in Sri Lanka and Thailand. Natural Hazards, 42(1), pp.105-124.

Sakuna, D., Szczucinski, W., Feldens, P., Schwarzer, K. and Khokiattiwong, S., 2012. Sedimentary deposits left by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami on the inner continental shelf offshore of Khao Lak, Andaman Sea (Thailand). Earth, planets and space, 64(10), pp.931-943.

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