The devastating 2004 tsunami: A timeline

Ten years ago, on Sunday, December 26, 2004, a massive earthquake struck off Indonesia, unleashing a devastating tsunami which left more than 220,000 dead across the Indian Ocean in hours.

A timeline:

-- SUNDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2004 --

  • 0058 GMT (7:58 am local time): Jakarta`s Geo-Physical Center registers an earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale off the island of Sumatra. The epicentre is located in the Indian Ocean, 250 kilometres (155 miles) to the southeast of the island. Data evolves until the quake is registered at a magnitude of 9.3, the strongest earthquake registered in the world for 40 years.
  • 0114 GMT: The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii registers the quake.
  • 0130 GMT: Sumatra is devastated by the tsunami unleashed by the quake. The province of Aceh is overcome by waves of nearly 35 metres (115 feet) high in certain places.
  • Dozens of villages are wiped from the map. Indonesia will eventually count around 170,000 dead or missing, including some 131,000 on Sumatra`s west coast.
  • Near to the epicentre, the Indian islands of Andaman and Nicobar are among the first hit in the Bay of Bengal.
  •  0230 GMT: Beaches in the south of Thailand such as Phuket, Khao Lak and Phi Phi, very popular with tourists in the end of year period, are in their turn hit by walls of water. Around 5,400 are killed there, of whom half are foreigners of 37 different nationalities. Nearly 8,500 are injured.
  • The southernmost tip of Myanmar is also hit, leaving 61 dead, as is the south of Bangladesh.
  • 0300 GMT: In Sri Lanka, the tidal wave sweeps across more than 800 kilometres of coastline from the northeast to the south, destroying houses and tourist centres: 31,000 are killed.
  • In India, around 16,400 people die, with the southern state of Tamil Nadu paying the heaviest price.
  •  Protected by Sumatra, Malaysia is relatively spared the impact of the tsunami, with 68 dead, mainly on the tourist island of Penang.
  • 0400 GMT: The tsunami reaches the Maldives archipelago. Two-thirds of the capital Male is flooded, as well as most of the 1,192 islets. More than 100 people die.
  • 0700 GMT: The tsunami reaches the east African coast. Nearly 300 die in Somalia, including around 100 fishermen. At least 10 die on the Tanzanian coast. In Kenya, where evacuation procedures have been put into place, there is only one casualty.
  •  Towards 0900 GMT: Strong waves reach Mauritius and Rodriguez Island, causing material damage.
  •  During the day: Airports in the region, notably that of Bangkok, are besieged by thousands of holidaymakers seeking to return home. Governments mobilise to help their nationals.
  •  Towards 1430 GMT: The first global tolls speak of more than 5,400 dead. As days pass the toll worsens, reaching 120,000 on December 30, 146,000 on January 5, more than 160,000 by the 13th, to end at more than 220,000 dead.


On beaches scattered with debris, searches take place to try to find survivors.

Foreign countries and international organisations earmark emergency aid. Planes carrying foodstuffs, medicines and rescue workers leave for the disaster area.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. You can find out more by clicking this link