Bill Clinton played as Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)
Release: Mar 29, 2005
December 26, 2004, at 7:59 a.m. local time, an undersea section of the Earth's crust slipped along a 700-mile-long fault off the coast of Sumatra, setting in motion a train of destructive waves called tsunamis that left well over 250,000 people dead or missing. In "Wave That Shook the World," NOVA traces exactly what happened, and why.
Before 2004, the Indian Ocean's most devastating tsunami was caused by the titanic eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in 1883. (Immediately following the original airing on March 29, PBS revisits this earlier disaster with "KRAKATOA," a 90-minute docudrama.) Causing nearly 40,000 deaths, Krakatoa was long considered an almost unimaginable catastrophe, until last December's tsunami showed that humans are more vulnerable than ever to rare but inevitable natural disasters.
This program tells the minute-by-minute story of the 2004 tsunami, featuring video footage and scientific analysis of the onrushing waves that spread for 3,000 miles around the Indian Ocean basin. NOVA interviews eyewitnesses, including one of the few people who survived when a train carrying 1,500 passengers along a coastal route in Sri Lanka was swamped by the waves; and two men who videotaped the second, more destructive wave that hit their beachfront bar in Thailand. Thousands had been lulled into a false sense of security after the first wave passed. Tsunamis, however, usually consist of several waves, separated by many minutes or even hours, and the biggest can come at any time.
Some geologists estimate that the earthquake that caused the disaster measured 9.3 on the Richter scale, making it the second largest on record. The quake occurred near the surface of the seafloor, where one plate of the Earth's crust is slipping beneath another, creating periodic releases of pent-up energy. NOVA uses detailed animation to show how the quake raised a portion of the seafloor, which also lifted all the water lying above it. This movement caused a series of massive waves that radiated outward from the quake's epicenter at speeds approaching that of a passenger jet.
Barely a minute after the quake, computers at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii picked up seismic signals and automatically notified scientists. Within a few minutes they had issued a warning bulletin. But they still did not know the full magnitude of the quake or whether it had triggered a tsunami. The Center's ocean-sensing gauges are confined to the Pacific, where tsunamis regularly occur. No similar network or warning system exists in the Indian Ocean.
Fifteen minutes after the temblor, a colossal wall of water struck the northwest coast of Sumatra and washed several miles inland, destroying everything in its path. Over the next few hours, a series of gigantic waves traveled across the Indian Ocean, killing tens of thousands of people in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India.
The degree of destruction is almost impossible to fathom. It was "like the aftermath of an atomic bomb, maybe worse," says disaster photographer Geoff Mackley as he surveys the Sumatran coast, site of the earliest waves, which are estimated to have been as high as 60 feet. The area is littered with debris of every description, from battered factories to shattered concrete breakwaters to ships tossed around like toys. Watch Movies Online for Free on 10StarMovies.