Banda Aceh And The Boxing Day Tsunami Essay

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Australian Lutheran World Service

Hand in Hand

Banda Aceh and the Indian Ocean
On the morning of Sunday, 26 December 2004,
there was a severe earthquake in the Indian Ocean
off the coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The
earthquake measured 9.0 on the Richter Scale and
was followed by aftershocks ranging from 6.3 to 7.0
in severity in a zone 1,000 kilometres north to the
Andaman Islands. The underwater earthquake also
resulted in a powerful tsunami (from the Japanese
words meaning 'harbour wave'). The wave travelled
quickly under the ocean, building to a wall of water
up to 10 metres high when it reached the shallow
coastal waters and causing massive destruction
when it hit land.
Without an effective warning system and disaster
plan, many people did not know to move quickly to
higher ground to escape the wave and its load of
debris. In some places the sea receded for hundreds
of metres before the wave rushed in. Curious people
looking at this strange occurrence from the beaches
did not recognise this as a sign of danger, and as a
result were killed by the tsunami.
The Impact
The tsunami caused extraordinary damage. The
death toll was put at roughly 230,000 in eleven
countries. In addition, there were many hundreds of
thousands injured, plus countless others who suffered trauma and the grief of losing family members,
their homes and their livelihoods. Indonesia, Sri
Lanka, India and Thailand were the hardest hit.
Countries lost people with the knowledge and skills
that were needed for their ongoing development.
Roads, bridges, water and electricity supplies, health
centres and schools were destroyed. The landscape
was altered unrecognisably, with some areas lifted
high out of the water while others were washed entirely away. Debris and waste were scattered widely
and salt inundated farmland and underground water

of coast was severely affected, often up to five
kilometres inland. At least 654 villages were
damaged or destroyed, more than 500,000 people
lost their homes, and more than 150,000 children
were left without schools.
To add to the devastation an earthquake measuring
8.7 on the Richter scale struck the west coast of
Sumatra near the island of Nias on 28 March 2005.
Emergency Response
Australians responded generously, donating more
than $345 million to aid agencies. The Australian
Government also quickly responded with food,
personnel and aid. In the first days, weeks and
months following the disaster Australia's efforts were
focused on providing necessities such as food, clean
water and shelter, and the resources needed to treat
victims, stop the spread of disease, clear debris from
roads and restore essential services.
Some of the emergency relief responses included:
•coordination and transportation by plane of
critically important relief supplies such as food,
water, water containers, medical supplies, tents,
tarpaulins and fuel to affected communities;
•civilian teams of 24 doctors, specialists (in child
protection, medical supplies, infectious diseases
and mental trauma), a microbiologist and two laboratory technicians;
•medical supplies, including injections for vaccinations against tetanus and a 90-bed Australian
Defence Force field hospital in Banda Aceh;
•the establishment and stocking of a temporary bulk
medical supply warehouse;
•a water purification plant to produce up to 480,000
litres of water a day in Banda Aceh;
•the delivery of telecommunications equipment and
technicians; and
•HMAS Kanimbla, a navy transport ship, with 250
sailors, 150 engineers, two Sea King helicopters,
two landing craft, bulldozers, cranes, trucks and
building materials.

One of the most severely affected areas was that
closest to the epicentre, the province of Aceh on
Sumatra, Indonesia, and in particular, the Provincial
capital, Banda Aceh. More than 170,000 people died
The swift and well-coordinated emergency effort
with thousands still missing, presumed dead. The
managed to prevent a major outbreak of