Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Maldives, Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand as a result of the massive quake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the resulting tsunamis
Many victims were Europeans and other holidaymakers swept away when the waves hit beach resorts. But the bulk of the victims were residents of local towns inundated by waves more than 10 metres high and fishermen living in flimsy housings along the shores of the Indian Ocean
There is probably little that we can do to avoid the occurrence of such terrible natural disasters. However, there is a strong argument that human activities such as excessive coastal development and the destruction of natural protective barriers such as mangroves and coral reefs contributed as much to the tragic loss of life as did the lack of an early warning system. The high levels of environmental and property damage were also exacerbated by the effects of human intervention.
Jeff McNeely, the IUCN chief scientist who lived for several years in Indonesia and Thailand is quoted as saying that the tsunami was “nothing new for nature” in a geologically active region.
What made this natural event the major disaster that it became were the anthropogenic pressures that we humans visited on the affected area.