Indian Ocean Tsunami Five Years Later

Today’s World Better Prepared, but Quick Personal Action Still Key to Survival

Sri Lanka damage.

Damage on the coast of Sri Lanka was extensive following the 2004 tsunami, which originated 2,000 miles away.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Five years have passed since a catastrophic tsunami struck countries around the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000 people. Because these events are rare, people may have a tendency to get complacent and think that one will never happen near them. However, every coastline in the world is vulnerable to a tsunami, as we saw on September 29, 2009, in American and Independent Samoa.

Most of the citizens on those islands heeded nature’s warnings signs — a strong or persistent ground shake and a sudden fall of the ocean tide — and moved inland and to higher ground before the tsunami arrived, saving countless lives.

If you live near or visit the coast, NOAA encourages you to take this opportunity to develop and discuss a tsunami safety plan with your family and friends so everyone will be prepared when a big tsunami strikes the United States.

NOAA tsunami buoy.

NOAA tsunami buoy.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA’s Tsunami Warning Improvements

Through NOAA, the United States has made a significant investment in tsunami detection and warning systems since the catastrophic tsunami occurred in 2004. Although the earthquake triggering that tsunami was detected, warning systems were not in place in the Indian Ocean region for governments to alert people to evacuate the coasts to safety.

Today, NOAA manages an expanded network of tide and seismic stations, and 39 tsunami buoys positioned throughout the world’s oceans to detect tsunamis. If NOAA’s Tsunami Warning Centers detect a tsunami threat, they broadcast alerts over an advanced telecommunications infrastructure.

Other components of the nation’s upgraded tsunami warning system include NOAA’s two 24/7 Tsunami Warning Centers in Alaska and Hawaii, a network of advanced forecast models for at-risk communities, and TsunamiReady™ — a public preparedness and education program.

Warning Signs of a Tsunami

TsunamiReady sign.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

What You Should Do if You See These Signs

To learn more about U.S. advancements in tsunami detection and warning, read the latest news release. NOAA logo.

Other Resources

Tsunami Fact Sheet

NOAA's Tsunami Web site