Story of the Week  
2004 Sumatra Earthquake and Tsunami :: Another Rude Awakening for Indian Technologists

The Great Sumatra Earthquake of 26 December 2004 was one of the 5 major earthquakes of Magnitude >9.0 in the recent history of instrument-recorded earthquakes. The special feature of this earthquake was the spectacular development of a Tsunami and the devastation it caused in Asian and African countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. In the Indian context, the disaster has lead to over 10,700 deaths, over 5,600 missing and huge economic setback. This magnitude 9.3 earthquake resulted in submergence of built environment and emergence of the new beaches in the Andaman & Nicobar (A&N) Islands. Damages in the A&N Islands were due to both the earthquake shaking and tsunami waves, but the mainland India coast saw only tsunami wave related damage.

Many engineering lessons were re-learnt after this earthquake. While there is enough to reflect upon for all sections of the Indian engineering community in preparing for mitigating the consequences of future natural disasters, the technologists of the nation have two pointed questions looking at them, namely
(a) Are they creating technologies that are relevant to the nations needs, and
(b) Do they have the credibility of delivering answers to the tough national questions?

IIT Kanpur has played an important role in the post-earthquake technical efforts of the nation to answer these questions and guide the nation to a development agenda that will reduce the risk of the nation during future earthquakes.

Earthquake-shaking related collapse of a stilt-plus-one storey house in reinforced concrete near Port Blair in Andaman & Nicobar Islands


The activities of IIT Kanpur related to the 2004 Sumatra Earthquake and Tsunamis include:
1. Conducted field reconnaissance along the mainland coast and in Andaman & Nicobar Islands immediately after the earthquake to document the earthquake (understand the effect of earthquake on natural and built environment), and collect perishable data
2. Revisited the affected areas along the mainland coast and in Andaman & Nicobar Islands to study the post-disaster reconstruction efforts, and document the same
3. Undertook subsequent visits to collect detailed information on geology and paleoseismological evidences of past earthquakes in the Andaman and Nicobar region

Up-throw of coral beds and rock strata due to uplift on the western coast of middle Andaman Island near Flat Island

Advice to Governments
1. Advised Government of India (DST) on reconstructions to be undertaken in Tsunami-affected areas of Andaman & Nicobar Islands
2. Advised Government of Tamil Nadu and Government of Kerala on reconstructions to be undertaken in Tsunamis-affected areas
Advised Survey of India on Construction of new Tide Gauge Cabins to be built along the Indian coastline
4. Steered discussions on issues related to (a) effects of Tsunamis on natural and built environment, and (b) future course of action for construction in Tsunamis affected areas, during the National Seminars on Tsunamis Mitigation and Preparedness hosted by the Government of Gujarat and by the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad

Information Dissemination
1. Published the findings of the field investigations in journals of international and national repute
2. Made multimedia presentations on the findings of the field investigations for technical and general audiences in India and abroad
3. Disseminated the technical findings (including photographs) through the website of the National Information Center of Earthquake Engineering (NICEE) at IIT Knapur (
4. Developed a concept document on technology to be adopted for constructions in coastal areas of the nation (dismissing the myth of tsunami-safe houses on the coast)

Complete loss of spans of the four span RC bridge at Melmannakudi in Tamil Nadu

A more detailed report can be requested from

Professor Sudhir K. Jain
National Information Center of Earthquake Engineering
Department of Civil Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

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