WHAT THE TSUNAMI DISASTER LEADS
US TO CONSIDER
The South Asian earthquake of 26 December 2004,
the largest in the last 40 years and fifth largest since 1900, registering
9 on the Richter scale, and the tsunami that followed it, caused
a disaster leading to the deaths of more than 156,000 people. 1,000
square-kilometre faults that appeared as the result of the movement
of great underground plates and the enormous energy created by land
masses changing place combined with the great energy occurring in
the oceans to create tsunamis. The tsunamis struck the South Asian
countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh,
Myanmar, the Maldives and the Seychelles, and even the coast of
the African country of Somalia, some 5,000 kilometres away.
The word �tsunami,� meaning harbour wave in Japanese, became part
of the languages of the world in the aftermath of the 15 June, 1896,
Great Meiji Tsunami that hit Japan and in which 21,000 people lost
In order to understand the tsunami, it is most important to distinguish
the tsunami from tides and waves formed by the wind. Winds blowing
over the surface of the ocean set up a current limited to the upper
layer of the sea by raising relatively small waves. For example;
divers with air-bottles can easily dive down and reach still water.
There may be waves of 30 metres or more in violent storms, but these
do not set the deep waters in motion. In addition, the speed of
a normal wind wave is up to 20 km/hour, while one feature of the
tsunami wave is that it travels at 750-800 km/hour. The tides move
over the Earth twice in the course of a day and, just like tsunamis,
can produce currents that reach down to the sea bed. In contrast
to genuine tidal waves, however, the source of tsunamis is not the
gravitational force of the Moon and Sun.
The tsunami represents a long-period sea wave that forms due to
energy passing into the sea because of earthquakes, volcanic explosions
and strata collapses connected to these in the ocean or sea bed,
tectonic events such as underwater plate slides, or meteor effects.
When the ocean floor changes place at high speed, the whole mass
of water above it is affected. What happens in the sea floor is
reflected on the surface of the water, and the whole mass of water,
down to a depth of 5,000-6,000 metres, joins in the wave motion.
Consecutive swelling and falling may cover an area of up to 10,000
Tsunamis Have No Effect in Open Seas
In the open ocean, tsunamis are not the enormous walls of water
that most people would imagine; they are generally less than 1 metre
high, with a wave length of around 1,000 kilometres. As can be seen
from this, the wave surface is very slightly inclined (1 cm in 1
km). In deep and open ocean regions, these waves go unperceived,
despite moving at the high speed of 500 to 800 km/hour, since they
are masked by normal surface waves. In order to better comprehend
the speed of the wave, we may say that it could compete with that
of a Boeing 747 jet. A tsunami that takes place in the open sea
will not even be felt by any vessels.
Tsunamis Depositing 100,000 Tons of Water
Research has shown that rather than consisting of a single wave,
tsunamis actually consist of a series of waves with a single centre,
like a stone thrown into a swimming pool. The distance between two
consecutive waves may be 500-650 kilometres. This means the tsunami
can cross the ocean in a matter of hours. The tsunami only reveals
its enormous energy when it approaches the shore. Energy distributed
in a thick column of water becomes concentrated as that column increasingly
contracts and a rapid increase in the height of the surface wave
can be observed. Waves less than 60 cm high in open ocean waters
lose speed as they approach shallow waters, the distance between
the waves decreases, and waves piling on top of others create the
tsunami by forming a wall of water. These giant waves, that are
generally 15 metres high and rarely exceed 30 metres, use enormous
force against the shore they strike with great speed, inflict serious
damage, and cause considerable loss of life.
The tsunami deposits more than 100,000 tons of water for every
metre of shoreline, with a hard-to-imagine destructive force. (The
tsunami that struck Japan in July, 1993, the largest known tsunami
ever, rose 30 metres above sea level.) The first sign that a tsunami
is approaching is usually not a wall of water, but the sudden retreat
of the sea.
Major Tsunamis in History
The greatest recorded giant sea waves caused by earthquakes are
listed as follows:
The oldest known giant marine earthquake wave, called �tsunami�
by the Japanese and �hungtao� by the Chinese, is that which took
place in the eastern Mediterranean on 21 July, 365 AD and
killed thousands of people in the Egyptian city of Alexandria.
The Portuguese capital was destroyed in the Great Lisbon Earthquake
of 1 November, 1775. The Atlantic ocean wave, 6 metres high, devastated
the Portuguese, Spanish and Moroccan coasts.
27 August 1883: The Indonesian volcano Krakatoa
erupted, and the tsunami that washed over the Javan and Sumatran
coasts killed 36,000 people. The volcanic eruption was so powerful
that for many nights the sky shone with red lava dust.
15 June 1896: The �Sanriku Tsunami� struck Japan.
The 23 metre high giant tsunami that swept over masses of people
gathered together for a religious festival cost the lives of 26,000
17 December 1896: A tsunami destroyed part of
the embankment of Santa Barbara in California, USA, and the main
boulevard was flooded.
31 January 1906: The Pacific Ocean earthquake
wave destroyed part of the city of Tumaco in Colombia, as well as
all the houses on the coast between Rioverde in Ecuador and Micay
in Colombia; 1,500 people died.
1 April 1946: The tsunami that destroyed the Aleutian
Scotch Cap Lighthouse with its crew of five, proceeded to Hilo in
Hawaii, killing 159 people.
22 May 1960: An 11-metre high tsunami killed 1,000
people in Chile and 61 in Hawaii. The giant wave crossed to the
opposite shore of the Pacific Ocean and rocked the Philippines and
the Japanese island of Okinawa.
28 March 1964: The Alaskan �Good Friday� tsunami
wiped three villages off the map with 107 people dead, and 15 in
Oregon and California.
16 August 1976: A Pacific tsunami cost the lives
of 5,000 people in the Moro Gulf in the Philippines.
17 July 1998: A tremor wave occurring in northern
Papua New Guinea killed 2,313 people, destroyed 7 villages and left
26 December 2004: The 8.9 earthquake and giant
wave that struck six countries in South-east Asia killed more than
Factors Increasing the Violence of Tsunamis
According to information provided by Dr. Walter C. Dudley, a professor
of oceanography and the cofounder of the Pacific Tsunami Museum,
no matter what the force of the earthquake, movement on the sea
floor is necessary for a tsunami to appear. In other words, the
greater the dislocation in the sea floor, the greater the mass of
water it will set in motion, and this will increase the violence
of the tsunami. Another factor increasing tsunami force is the structure
of the coast it strikes: In addition to factors such as that coast
being a gulf or cape, flat or inclined, the structure of that part
of the coast that remains under water may increase the violence
of killer waves.
In another statement, in which he made it clear that the precautions
taken could not represent a definitive solution, Dudley said that
America and Japan had established very advanced monitoring systems
in the Pacific Ocean, but that all these systems had a false alarm
rate of fifty percent!
Signs of the End Times
Natural disasters, which cannot be prevented even with technological
means or precautionary measures, show just how helpless mankind
From the 20th century, characterised as the �century
of disasters,� up to the present, there have been catastrophes such
as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tornados, storms, typhoons,
whirlwinds and floods, in addition to tsunamis, and these have inflicted
terrible damage and cost the lives of millions of people. When one
thinks about these extraordinary phenomena, it can clearly be seen
that they bear a close similarity to the natural phenomena revealed
as indicating the first period of the End Times.
According to what is revealed in the hadiths, the End Times is
a period that will come about close to doomsday, and when the moral
values of the Qur�an will be widespread among people. The first
period of the End Times will be one when people will draw away from
religious moral values, when wars will increase, and extraordinary
natural phenomena will be experienced.
Indeed, in the hadiths eradicated cities and peoples wiped from
the pages of history are reported as signs of the End Times. In
those hadiths dealing with the matter, our Prophet states:
�The Hour (Last Day) will not be established until ... earthquakes
will be very frequent.� (Bukhari)
"Big phenomena will happen in his time." (Ibn Hajar
Haytahami, Al-Qawl al-Mukhtasar fi'alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar,
There are two great hadiths before the day of Judgment ...
and then years of earthquakes. (Narrated by Umm Salama (r.a.))
"So many appalling incidents will occur in his time."
(Imam Rabbani, Letters of Rabbani, 2/258)
In the second period of the End Times, God will free people from
degeneration and war by means of the Mahdi. At this time, known
as the Golden Age, war and conflict will come to an end, the world
will be filled with plenty, abundance and justice, and Islamic moral
values will prevail on Earth and will be widely practiced. No such
period has ever taken place before but, by God�s leave, one will
be experienced before doomsday. It is now awaiting the time appointed
Everything is under the control of God. Believers who
know this truth and who have sincere faith in God submit to our
Lord in the knowledge that they are following their destiny. God
has flawlessly arranged everything, down to the very finest detail,
from the creation of the Earth up to the Day of Judgment. Everything
is recorded in the book �Lawh-i Mahfuz.� Everything has already
taken place in a single instant in the sight of God, Who is not
bound by time or space, and the time and place of every event has
been determined. This fact is expressed thus in a verse: �Every
communication has its time, and you will certainly come to know.�