Tsunami - The death waves

Isaac Ashkenazi, Joshua Shemer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


On December 26, 2004, the fourth strongest earthquake over the past century struck in the Indian Ocean off the western coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Measuring 9.0 in magnitude, the earthquake triggered massive tsunamis that struck the Indian Ocean countries and Somalia, and killed more than tens of thousands and destroyed entire villages, leaving over a million homeless. Tsunamis are water waves that are caused by sudden vertical movement of a large area of the sea floor during an undersea earthquake. Tsunami speed can exceed 800 kilometers per hour, and as it reaches shallow water the height of the wave drastically increases. There are two natural warning signs of a possible tsunami: the earthquake itself and later, in the minutes preceding a tsunami strike, the sea often recedes temporarily from the coast. Despite these warning signs and despite a lag of up to several hours between the earthquake and the impact of the tsunamis, nearly all of the victims were taken completely by surprise. One of the most common myths associated with natural disasters is that dead bodies are responsible for the spread of epidemics. This article discusses the myths that often lead authorities and others to take inappropriate action, and presents valuable lessons to be learned from this catastrophic disaster.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-159
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005


  • Dead bodies
  • Disaster
  • Earthquake
  • Medicine
  • Tsunami


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