On December 26, 2004, the world’s most powerful earthquake in 40 years struck deep under the Indian Ocean. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake was centered off the northwestern coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The earthquake triggered a tsunami (massive waves), which crashed into the coasts of 14 countries from Southeast Asia to the eastern coast of Africa. The western coast of Thailand, about 480 km (about 300 mi) from the quake’s epicenter, was hit by huge wave surges within two hours. Thailand’s many offshore islands, such as the popular tourist resorts of Ko Phuket and Ko Phi Phi Le, were hit during their busy holiday season. In the absence of a tsunami early warning system in the Indian Ocean region, coastal communities received no warning of the impending disaster.
The tsunami was the deadliest in recorded history. The International Committee of the Red Cross reported a death toll of more than 250,000 people as a result of the tsunami and the earthquake. Indonesia, nearest the epicenter of the quake, suffered the largest loss of life. Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India reported high death tolls from the tsunami. Thai officials estimated that about half of the more than 5,000 people known to have died in the country were foreigners, most of them vacationers from Europe. The tsunami destroyed entire coastal communities in the stricken countries. Millions of survivors were left in desperate need of food, water, shelter, and medical care. A number of countries and international humanitarian organizations responded to the widespread devastation with one of the largest relief efforts in modern history. "Thailand" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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