CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

Horror and heroism: the Indian Ocean tsunami

The Story

On Dec. 26, 2004, an earthquake rumbled deep under the Indian Ocean, and the resulting tsunami walloped south Asia. Three days later, the region is coming to grips with seemingly infinite obliteration. The death toll has reached the tens of thousands in Indonesia, the hardest hit country, and fatalities are also mounting in Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and Somalia. Amid the carnage and hopelessness are stories of heroism. In this CBC Radio report from The World at Six, expatriate Canadian Greg McCauley explains how he saved a small group of people near his home in Kalama Bay, Thailand.

Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: Dec. 29, 2004
Guest(s): Rick Loudenburg, Greg McCauley
Host: Philippe Marcoux, Kris Purdy
Reporter: Adrienne Arsenault, Michael McAuliffe, Tom Perry
Duration: 9:42

Did You know?

• The tsunami was the result of an undersea megathrust earthquake with an epicentre just off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. A megathrust earthquake happens when two of the earth's tectonic plates converge at a subduction zone. One plate is forced (or subducts) under another and a massive thrust results. These earthquakes deform the ocean floor and generate a considerable succession of tsunami waves.

• The magnitude 9.0 earthquake affected a zone ranging 1,000 metres north to the Andaman Islands. Fast-traveling underwater waves soon emerged on shallow coastal lands all over the region, throwing walls of water up to 10 metres high well onto the shores.

• This disaster has been given many names including the Indian Ocean earthquake, the Sumatran-Andaman earthquake, Asian tsunami, Indonesian tsunami, and the Boxing Day tsunami.

• The estimated number of dead from the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 ranges from 180,000 to as high as 300,000, with 40,000 or more missing as of the end of 2005.

• Many of the battered areas, especially the province of Aceh on Indonesia's island of Sumatra, were washed-out wastelands that lost significant infrastructure including roads, bridges, medical facilities, water and electrical supplies and schools. In Aceh, more than 130,000 people died and tens of thousands were still missing in December 2005. Nearly 700 villages were damaged or destroyed, half a million people lost their homes and some 150,000 children were left without schools. Many women and children perished because they were in low-lying areas while the men were at sea fishing.

• According to Global Education, the high number of casualties can be attributed to the fact that there was no effective warning system or disaster plan. Many people didn't know to move quickly to higher ground before the waves set in. In fact, many were lured to the shores by receding seas and weren't aware of this sign of danger. In this report, expatriate Canadian Greg McCauley describes a scene where people went to look at the marvel of nature and were swept away by the sea.

• International aid rolled in after the disaster and soon totalled over $7 billion. According to a January 27, 2005 BBC news report, significant cash donations were received from Japan, the United States, many European counties and the European Union itself, Canada, China, South Korea and India. Many nations also dispatched logistical support including police and military units, transport ships, health support teams, planes to deliver food and other relief supplies and civilian emergency workers.

• Canada gave $343 million in government donations, plus at least $75 million raised by private donations. Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team (D.A.R.T.) also deployed to Sri Lanka. To see how Canadian musicians banded together to raise funds and awareness, see the CBC report Tsunami in Asia inspires musicians to help .




Canada's Earthquakes and Tsunamis more