Besides the deaths, more than one million people were left homeless and hundreds of thousands homes and businesses were destroyed. The United Nations estimated that, "...the disaster will prove to be the costliest ever recorded, with full economic recovery not expected for up to 10 years in many areas. " (Intute: Science, engineering and technology: Tsunamis)
The physical structure of the coast and the environment was severely damaged which meant that flora and fauna was disrupted and destroyed. "The extent of this damage is being assessed and will likely vary considerably depending on the local topography and hydrology." (Anonymous: Impact of Tsunamis on Ecosystems)
In addition to the environmental damage and pollution caused by the Tsunami was the fact that non-biodegradable waste such as plastics led to an increase of marine debris.
Another environmental aspect was that, "Toxic wastes, which were inadequately stored, may have been dispersed."
Anonymous: Impact of Tsunamis on Ecosystems)
However, the effect and impact of the tsunami was not only limited to the immediate results of the wave of water and there are further aspects that have to be considered. As one study of the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami states;
One of the durable themes of our research is that the impact of natural disasters is never merely local. While the physical damage was concentrated along a relatively narrow coastal fringe, in human terms the tsunami's impact, like the earthquake and resulting tsunami itself, rippled outward from its epicentre. (Rigg et al. 2005)
In other words, the impact of the tsunami was even more extensive than its immediate effects. This relates to the fact that many towns, villages and areas were very ill prepared for the impact of a disaster of this nature. This also refers to cultural and psychological aspects of the affect of the tsunami.
One of the effects that has lingered long after the physical effects of the tsunami is fear; "The nature and unprecedented scale of the tsunami in the Andaman Sea created an intense sense of fear; in particular, the fear of the unknown, the uncertain and the uncontrollable." (Rigg et al. 2005) This has had the result of changing traditional cultural views and the introduction of previously unacceptable scientific concepts. The event was also related in a cultural context to various religious and ethical views; for example, the view that Muslims has been "punished " by God as a result of young Muslims deviating from the ethos and traditions of Islam and indulging in the consumption of drugs and alcohol. (Rigg et al. 2005)
It may seem contradictory and slightly unfeeling to speak of positive outcomes or results of the tsunami, however there are some studies that suggest more positive consequences that have resulted from this event. One possible positive result is that it caused many civil conflicts in the region to come to halt and many political groups to reassess there disagreements and conflicts in the light of the magnitude of this disaster. An example of this is the political conflict that was prominent in Aceh before the tsunami.
Then came the tsunami. Its staggering impact, as well as the sudden arrival of outside help, transformed Aceh's political and social landscape. The warring parties realized that if Aceh was to be rebuilt, they'd have to stop fighting. A ceasefire agreement was signed in August (Herlinger, 2006, p. 11)
5. The aftermath: Remedial actions and reduction of the problem.
As has been referred to in this paper, one of the central critiques is that there was no adequate early warning system in place. Coupled with this is the view that the aftermath of the tsunami was inadequately dealt with by countries involved and world agencies and bodies. As Smith (2004) points out, there has to be a great deal of preparation and planning to deal with an event of this nature which can create death and devastation in a very short period of time. "If a tsunami is generated locally, the evacuation time before the arrival of the first tidal wave is likely to be only 20-25 minutes and routes to the higher refuge area have to be well organised and understood" (Smith 68)
It follows therefore, that an early warning system is an essential aspect in dealing with a tsunami. While there is no way to prevent a tsunami for occurring, if sufficient warning is given many lives can be saved. In this regard it should be noted that at the time no Tsunami Warning System existed for the Indian Ocean. While there is an extensive system in the pacific, this is not he case in the Indian Ocean. (Pararas-Carayannis)
To remedy this situation there have been renewed efforts to establish a more adequate and effective warning system in the region. One of the projects that have been initiated is the German-Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System for the Indian Ocean (GITEWS). The technical aspects of this system are being tested during 2008 and will begin operating in 2009. The system is based on a system of buoys and sensors that are linked to a warning control system, which will hopefully be able to prevent future devastation and death and send timely warnings to the authorities in the region. (Status Quo of the Tsunami Early Warning System for the Indian Ocean. 2008)
Much criticism has also been leveled at the relief efforts that were undertaken after the event. This suggests that mode coordination and planning from outside institutions and aid agencies would have helped to reduce trauma and suffering and that this is an aspect that can be remedied for the future. It is also emphasized in many studies that while there was a great deal of assistance and aid provide to the people of the region after the tsunami, yet Good intentions often led to irrelevant, even Insulting results: deliveries of used underwear, of thick woollen coats in tropical areas and of medicines past their sell-by dates, or the arrival of hundreds of unqualified volunteers. The pressure to perform quickly and visibly -- to show that something was being done -- became formidable, and the results were often unfortunate (Stone, 2006)
On the other hand, many reports note that the assistance that'd provided was extremely helpful. This can also be seen in the fact that there were relatively few deaths due to lack of medical care or starvation and there were no serous outbreaks of disease.
Many studies discuss the possible aspects that should be focused on to ameliorate the effects of any future tsunamis. Stone (2006) suggests some central aspects that should be borne in mind in dealing with future disaster scenarios of this nature.
1. Only a few experienced, well-known international humanitarian organizations should receive funding.
2. All programs should be beneficiary-driven and not dreamt up at a distance and imposed.
3. The definition of a disaster victim needs to include the poor who are indirectly affected.
4. The press and public need to learn that rehabilitation requires time and may be invisible to the camera. (Stone, 2006)
6. Concluding remarks
An event such as the Tsunami of 2004 is a major disaster that cannot be prevented but which can be planned and organized for in the future. What becomes clear form reading the literature on tsunamis is that major events and disasters are very often forgotten over time and the lesson learnt for the past are often not applied. This is a point that is made by Mcguire (2005). "The resilience of the human condition, and the speed with which memories are erased following even the most devastating natural catastrophe, are truly astonishing." (Mcguire, 2005) Mcquire refers to examples such as the fact that in 1883 the coastline of Indonesia was "...battered by waves four times higher than those that claimed more than 100,000 lives on Boxing Day last year." (Mcguire, 2005) This therefore refers to the necessity to remember past evens like major tsunamis and not to forget the possibility of future events that may be even more devastating than in the past. Remembering the past also means that adequate warning systems and preparations need to be implemented as a matter of urgency, so that future disasters can be dealt with less loss of life and destruction.
Anonymous. 2008. 2004 tsunami was not the first one in Indian Ocean!
Anonymous. 2008. The December 26, 2004 Sumatran Tsunami. http://www.ess.washington.edu/tsunami/Sumatra.htm
Anonymous: Impact of Tsunamis on Ecosystems. 2008. http://www.oceansatlas.org/servlet/CDSServlet?status=ND03MTY4Ny43MjU1NCY2PWVuJjMzPXdlYi1zaXRlcyYzNz1pbmZv www.questiaschool.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5009095107
Berman, R.A. (2005, February 14). Tsunami Lessons. National Review, 57, 5. Retrieved November 3, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5009095107
Escaleras, M.P., & Register, C.A. (2008). Mitigating Natural Disasters through Collective Action: The Effectiveness of Tsunami Early Warnings. Southern Economic Journal, 74(4), 1017+.
Expanded Tsunami Warning System Considered. (2005, Spring). Issues in Science and Technology, 21, 19+. Retrieved November 3, 2008, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5009414143 www.questiaschool.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5014525240
Greenhough, B., Jazeel, T., & Massey, D. (2005). Introduction: Geographical Encounters with the Indian Ocean…