By : Ashutosh Mohanty, Ph.D.
Co-Principal Investigator & Researcher 
Super Cyclone –99 Project 
Under :N.C.A.R, E.S.I.G., U.S.A

Impact of Tsunami in India

Almost all the countries situated around the Bay of Bengal were affected by the tsunami waves in the morning hours of 26 December 2004 (between 0900 – 1030 hrs IST). The killer waves were triggered by an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale that had an epicenter near the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. The first recorded tsunami in India dates back to 31 December 1881. An earthquake of magnitude 7.5 on the Richter scale, with its epicenter believed to have been under the sea off the coast of Car Nicobar Island, caused the tsunami. The last recorded tsunami in India occurred on 26 June 1941, caused by an earthquake with magnitude exceeding 8.5. This caused extensive damage to the Andaman Islands. There are no other well-documented records of Tsunami in India.

It was all quiet on the waterfront on the Sunday morning after Christmas in 2004 at Kanyakumari, the famous Marina Beach in Chennai and elsewhere on the Kerala coast and Andaman Nicober Islands. There was the excitement of a holyday with an offbeat mood with swarms of people on the sea front: children playing cricket and man and women on their morning work at the Marina. Elsewhere, fishermen were putting out to sea for the day’s catch. Then all on a sudden, a curious thing happened. The holidaymakers at Kanyakumari were awestruck when the sea receded from the shores. 

In the present tsunami, India was the third country severely battered after Indonesia and Srilanka. In India the State severely affected by tsunami are Tamilnadu, Pondicheri, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Andaman and Nicober Island. The following Table.1 shows the average scenario of tsunami devastation in the respective areas. The data relating to the Andaman and Nicober are yet to be assessed, for which it does appear in the e Table 

Table. 1 (Tsunami damage in India)

Tsunami damage in India 1


Andhra Pradesh


Tamil Nadu




Population affected







Area affected (Ha)







Length of coast affected (Km)







Extent of penetration (Km)

0.5 - 2.0

1 - 2

1 - 1.5

0.30 - 3.0



Reported height of tsunami (m)







Villages affected







Dwelling units







Cattle lost







(Source: DiMaRF, India-2005)


Tamil Nadu
The state of Tamil Nadu has been the worst affected on the mainland, with a death toll of 7,793. Nagapattinam district has had 5,525 casualties, with entire villages having been destroyed. Kanyakumari district has had 808 deaths, Cuddalore district 599, the state capital Chennai 206 and Kancheepuram district 124. The death tolls in other districts were Pudukkottai (15), Ramanathapuram (6), Tirunelveli (4), Thoothukudi (3), Tiruvallur (28), Thanjavur (22), Tiruvarur (10) and Viluppuram (47).

Those killed in Kanyakumari include pilgrims taking a holy dip in the sea. Of about 700 people trapped at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial off Kanyakumari, 650 were rescued. In Chennai, people playing on the Marina beach and those who taking a Sunday morning stroll were washed away, in addition to the fisherfolk who lived along the shore and those out at sea. The death toll at Velankanni in Nagapattinam district is currently 1,500. Most of these people were visiting the Basilica of the Virgin Mary for Christmas, while others were residents of the town. The nuclear power station at Kalpakkam was shut down after sea water rushed into a pump station. No radiation leak or damage to the reactor was reported

An estimated 30,000 people are homeless in the Union territory of Pondicherry. The current official toll is 560. The affected districts are Pondicherry (107 dead), Karaikal (453 dead).
Kariakal is the most devastrated area from the Pondichery Union territory.Where massive destruction and loss of casualities accure.This mishalp occure because of uncover stone block.Mostly fisherfolk are affected due to location and distance between sea and their basti (village).Fishing peoples are just preparing for venturing into sea and within fraction of seconds every thinng wash away and their boats are damaged they lost every thing in terms of life and property. More than 453 people are died so far and still some are missing .

The current official toll is 168. The affected districts are Kollam (131 dead), Alappuzha (32 dead), Ernakulam (5 dead).The tsunami that hit the Kerala coust on December 26,2004 , were three to five metres high ,according to the National Institute of Disaster Management,(NIDM) which functions under the ministray of home affairs.The Tidal upsourge had affected 250 killometers of the kerala costline and entered between one or two kilometers inland.pounded 187 villeges affecting 24.70 lakh persons in the state .As many as 6,280 dwelling units were destroyed. As many as 84,773 persons wee evacuated from the costal areas and accomedated in 142 Relif Camaps opened in Kollam,Alappuzha and Ernakulam Districts.

According to NIDM,131 Lives were lost in Kollam,32 in Alappuzha and five in Ernakulam,taking the official death tole to 168.High wave sweept the cost along a 40-Km stretch ,from Sakthikulangare in the south to Thrikunnapuzha in the north.This stretch has two narrow strips of land sand wiched between the sea and back water.

Andhra Pradesh
The current official toll is 105. The affected districts are Krishna (35 dead), Prakasam (35 dead), Nellore (20 dead), Guntur (4 dead), West Godavari (8 dead) and East Godavari (3 dead).

Andaman and Nicobar :
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands comprise 572 islands (all land masses in both low and high tides) out of which 38 are inhabited, both by people from the mainland and indigenous tribes. The islands lie just north of the earthquake epicentre, and the tsunami reached a height of 15 m in the southern Nicobar Islands. The official death toll is 812, and about 7,000 are still missing. The unofficial death toll (including those missing and presumed dead) is estimated to be about 7,000.

The Great Nicobar and Car Nicobar islands were the worst hit among all the islands because of their proximity to the quake and relative flatness. Aftershocks continue to rock the area. One fifth of the population of the Nicobar Islands is said to be dead, injured or missing. Chowra Island has lost two thirds of its population of 1,500. Entire islands have been washed away, and the island of Trinket has been split in two. Communications have not been restored with the Nancowry group of islands, some of which have been completely submerged, with the total number of the population still out of contact exceeding 7,000.

Among the casualties in Car Nicobar, 100 Indian Air Force personnel and their family members were washed away when the wave hit their air base, which was reported to have been severely damaged. The St. Thomas Cathedral (also known as the John Richardson church after John Richardson, a missionary and member of parliament) was washed away. The church, established in 1930 was one of the oldest and prominent churches in the region. A cricket stadium named after John Richardson and a statue dedicated to him were also washed away.

The majority of the population of Andaman Islands is made up of people from the mainland, mostly from West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. The natives of Andaman and Nicobar Islands are endangered tribal groups, such as such as the Jarawa, the Sentinelese, the Shompen, the Onge and the Andamanese. They are regarded as anthropologically significant as they are some of the world's most primitive tribes and considered the world's only link to ancient civilisation. Most of these tribes have maintained their aboriginal lifestyle for centuries, and government policy has been to not interfere with them unless absolutely essential.

It is reported that most of the native islanders survived the tsunami because they live on higher ground or far from the coast. The Onge (with a 2001 census population of 96), Jarawa (240), Sentinelese (39) and Andamanese (43) have been reached by survey teams and are confirmed to be safe although the number of dead is unknown. The Sentinelese live on a reserved island and are hostile to outsiders which is making it difficult for Indian officials to visit the island. They have shot arrows at helicopters sent to check on them. In the Nicobar Islands, the Nicobarese, a Mongoloid tribe (2001 population of 28,653), have lost about 656 lives with 3,000 still missing. Surveys are being conducted on the Shompen (2001 census count of 398) located on Great Nicobar island.

India's only active volcano, Barren 1, located at Barren Island 135 kilometres (80 miles) northeast of the capital Port Blair, erupted because of increased seismic activity on 30 December 2004. People have been evacuated since then and there have been no reports of any casualties.