It took just 30 minutes for the killer waves to leave 350,000 dead and half a million displaced. Less than one hour for 100,000 houses to be destroyed and 200,000 people to be stripped of their livelihoods.
For many thousands of people in South Asia, the Christmas holidays will always double as a memorial for those who suffered tragic losses during the 2004 tsunami, which rushed ashore on Dec. 26 leaving a trail of tears in its wake.
The island nation of Sri Lanka was one of the worst hit, with three percent of its population affected and five percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) lost in damages.
According to the Disaster Management Center (DMC), over a million people, mainly poor families from the coastal areas, had to be evacuated.
The Northern and Eastern provinces – already struggling in the grip of the protracted civil conflict that at the time was showing no signs of abating – bore the lion’s share of the destruction.
Weary from years of war, the population caught up in the fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were battered further by the waves: according to government data, 60 percent of the tsunami’s impact was concentrated on the northern and eastern coasts.