What Are the Effects of a Tsunami?

Updated on June 6, 2018

The effects of a tsunami are devastating. They are one of the world's worst natural disasters that can hit a country.

Tsunami damage is first caused by the immense force of the tidal wave hitting the shoreline. Tsunami flooding then continues to cause damage for several more weeks.

The effects of the tsunami on the country during this period range from destruction and damage, death, injury, millions of dollars in financial loss, and long lasting psychological problems for the inhabitants of the region.

The initial impact of the tsunami is often publicised across the world through the news media. However, the actual effects continue for many years after the natural disaster strikes.

For many of the people affected, they will never forget the terrifying ordeal of being caught in a tsunami. The scars that are inflicted on the land can be present for decades to come, and this only serves as a reminder to people living in the area of the terrible losses caused by the tsunami, and the lingering danger that yet another killer tidal wave could strike at any moment with very little warning.

Tsunami: Tidal wave hits the shore
Tsunami: Tidal wave hits the shore

Tsunami Damage and Destruction

A tsunami's tidal waves batter the shoreline and can destroy anything in their path.

This includes boats, buildings, houses, hotels, cars, trees, telephone lines - and just about anything else in their way.

Once the waves have knocked down infrastructure on the shore the waves continue inland for many more miles - obliterating yet more buildings and homes. As the water rushes across the land it can sweep away yet more trees, gardens, garages, cars and other man made equipment.

Boats have often been hurled into the sky and iron parking metres have been bent to the ground, demonstrating the sheer power of the water.

Tsunamis often hit poorer and less-developed countries around South Asia that are close to the ''ring of fire'' in the pacific ocean - a area with high seismic activity.

Because these countries are poor their buildings are not built strongly to withstand natural disasters such as Tsunamis.

This means that when the water hits the buildings they are easily washed away.

The water leaves a trail of destruction that looks like an enormous bomb has exploded in the area. Entire towns and villages are often destroyed in minutes.

To get an idea of just how powerful a tsunami can be, take a look at the pictures below of the Thai navy boat 813. The vessel was moored one nautical mile off the coast of Khao Lak, Phang Nga province in Thailand when the tsunami struck on December 26, 2004. The large metal boat - strongly built - was flung around like a toy. The water carried the boat 2km inland through buildings and tress, before dropping it down on a patch of land. Some 4,500 people were killed in Khao Lak, a small area in the south of Thailand on the east coast. The Navy boat was left in its resting place and a memorial has been built around it.

Read more about how Khao Lak was destroyed by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

The Thai Navy boat 813 in its final resting place after being flung 2km inland by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004
The Thai Navy boat 813 in its final resting place after being flung 2km inland by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 | Source

Death

There is very little warning before Tsunamis hit. This means that people living in towns and villages on the coast do not have time to escape.

Unfortunately one of the biggests and worst effects of a Tsunami is the cost to human life. Hundreds and thousands of people are killed by Tsunamis.

The force of the tsunami wave may kill people instantly or they may drown as water rushes on the land.

People may also be killed if a building is knocked down by the tsunami and it hits them. They can also be electrocuted if wires fall down into the water or they may be killed by fires or explosions.

The tsunami that struck South Asia and East African on Decmber 24 2004 killed a staggering 31,187 people in Sri Lanka. There were 4,280 missing people and a further 23,189 were injured.

Destruction: Homes are destroyed by the tsunami
Destruction: Homes are destroyed by the tsunami
Chaos: Palm trees on the coast are battered by the water
Chaos: Palm trees on the coast are battered by the water

Disease

Tsunamis flood the areas closest to the coast. This can cause disease to spread in the stagnant water.

Illnesses such as malaria form when water is stagnant and contaminated. This can cause more deeath and sickness.

Disease can also spread from the dead bodies that begin to rot on the ground once the water has subsided. This was the case in Indonesia in 2004. In fact, one BBC security guard actually burned the corpse of a baby because it had become infested with maggots and the risk of disease spreading caused a risk to the television crew.

Often the infastructure such as sewage and fresh water supplies for drinking are damaged from the tsunami. This makes it more difficult for people to stay healthy and for diseases to be treated. In these conditions for diseases are likely to spread.

Desperate: A child hit by the tsunami in India is carried away
Desperate: A child hit by the tsunami in India is carried away

Cost

There is immediately a massive cost when tsunamis happen. Rescue teams come in to the area and victims of the tsunami need to be treated.

Governments around the world may help with the cost of bringing aid to a tsunami-hit area. There might also be appeals and donations from people who have seen pictures of the area in the media.

After the initial cost of rescue operations there is the clean up cost. Debris from the destruction caused by the tsunami needs to be cleaned away. Damaged buildings that are no longer structurally safe may need to be knocked down.

There is also the cost that comes from loss of earnings in the local economy and also future losses as the area will be damaged for some time.

The total financial cost of the tsunami could be millions or even billions of dollars. It is difficult to put an excat figure on the monetary cost but is a lot.

Help: Rescue teams carry away a man injured by a tsunami
Help: Rescue teams carry away a man injured by a tsunami
Sretcher: A woman who was caught in the wave is carried to safety
Sretcher: A woman who was caught in the wave is carried to safety

Psychological Effects

Tsunami victims suffer psychology problems in the days and weeks after the destruction. This could even continue for years - often their entire lifetime.

A study by the World Health Organisation on survivors of the tsunami in Sri Lanka on December 24 2004 found that three to four weeks after the tsunami between 14 and 39 per cent of the children had post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In another study, 41 per cent of adolescents and approximately 20 per cent of those adolescents' mothers had PTSD four months after the event.

Many people from the Peraliya area of Sri Lanka where 2,000 people died and 450 families became homeless had problems up to two years after the tsunami.

They were anxious and stressed because they felt like their life was in danger from another tsunami. They were also suffering from grief because they knew somebody who had died.

There were also people who were depressed because they had lost their home, their money or their business in the tsunami. Many still have PTSD.

Questions & Answers

    © 2010 Rickrideshorses

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        tsunamis are actually just normal waves that have built up over time. they are so not waves made by earthquakes.

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        2 months ago

        A Tsunami is NOT a Tidal Wave. As the name implies, tidal waves have to do with tides. A tsunami is caused by a landslide or an earthquake where the fault line is located under the ocean. Please correct your article, you are misinforming people. I suggest you take a first year geography course to become educated. It would also be helpful if you cited some sources.

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