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National Science Foundation

Jan. 4—Banda Aceh, Sumatra. "The words 'war zone' barely did the scene justice, but it wasn't even close to what I would see over the next few days."

-- Coastal engineer Jose Borrero, University of Southern California.

From its epicenter in the East Indian Ocean, the magnitude 9.0 earthquake of Dec. 26 spread tsunamis around the world. Waves reached the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States from two different directions some 28 hours after the earthquake struck.


The Indian Ocean tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004, ranks as one of the great disasters of human history, whether its toll is measured by the hundreds of thousands of lives lost, by the billions of dollars in property destroyed or by the thousands of communities shattered.

Yet this was not the first tsunami that our planet has endured, nor will it be the last. Scientists now know that tsunamis can strike almost any shore, at any time, and from many different causes.

And that is why, in the immediate aftermath of the Indian Ocean catastrophe, there was no time to lose…

Screenshot image from flash movie of Tsunami Causes.

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Credit: Nicolle Rager, National Science Foundation

A Special Report After the Tsunami