The magnitude 9.1 earthquake and tsunami that slammed the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, in 2004 was one of the largest quakes ever recorded. Here, survivors toss debris into a canal.

Photograph by John Stanmeyer, National Geographic
  • On December 26, 2004, one of the deadliest tsunamis in recorded history took place off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. A magnitude 9.1 earthquake triggered waves as high as 15 meters (50 feet) that crashed into the coasts of 11 countries. The direct effects of the tsunami included more than 275,000 deaths and millions of people left homeless. While people from Thailand to East Africa were affected by the tsunami, the Indonesian province of Aceh was hit hardest.

    Along with the direct effects of the tsunami, many people were affected by disease, lack of shelter, and inadequate nutrition in the aftermath of the disaster.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    coast Noun

    edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: coast
    disaster Noun

    terrible and damaging event.

    disease Noun

    harmful condition of a body part or organ.

    earthquake Noun

    the sudden shaking of Earth's crust caused by the release of energy along fault lines or from volcanic activity.

    inadequate Adjective

    not enough or not of high-enough quality.

    nutrition Noun

    process by which living organisms obtain food or nutrients, and use it for growth.

    province Noun

    division of a country larger than a town or county.

    Encyclopedic Entry: province
    shelter Noun

    structure that protects people or other organisms from weather and other dangers.

    tsunami Noun

    ocean waves triggered by an earthquake, volcano, or other movement of the ocean floor.

    wave Noun

    moving swell on the surface of water.