Indian Ocean Tsunami
The Indian Ocean Tsunami made landfall on 26th December 2004. It was unprecedented in its scale, destroying parts of Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand and resulting in over 250,00 deaths within the region.
During the summer month of December, Southern Thailand is a popular tourist resort for many Europeans. Approximately 5,000 non-Thai nationals from 30 different nationalities died as a result of the tsunami. As a result of the high number of international deaths over, 30 individual Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) teams were deployed by their National governments.
The Royal Thai National Police had overall responsibility for the response operation closely supported by the Australian Federal Police and senior officers from other response police agencies. Kenyon was contracted by the Australian Government to support the international disaster response operation in Thailand.
The involvement of 30 independent national disaster victim identification teams placed a strain on the command structure and process and the necessity to standardize the victim identification process.
The overall scope of the disaster and the large number of deceased was overwhelming.There was no data management system within Thailand capable of recording the ante mortem and post mortem information on the deceased.
There was pressure either direct or indirect on the various national DVI teams to expedite the identification of their nationals killed in the incident.
The Thai National Police had 3,737 people officially recorded as missing/deceased.Over 30 different countries lost citizens as a result of the tsunami.
Kenyon provided two mobile mortuaries, mortuary equipment and consumables and appropriate personnel to support the mortuary operation.
Kenyon provided crisis communication advice and support to the Australian government.
Kenyon mortuary teams embalmed and prepared remains following post mortem examination in preparation for final disposition.
With the approval and support of the Australian government, Kenyon constructed a ‘Wall of Remembrance’ adjacent to the repatriation center in Phuket where the families of the victims could gather in memory of their loved ones.
Kenyon teams provided specialist advice on chemical use and personal protective equipment for the response operation.
Kenyon specialist teams provided advice on DNA collection, chain of custody procedures and DNA data management processes.
Kenyon provided comprehensive IT support to the Disaster Victim Identification Information Management Center (DVIIMC).
Kenyon utilized the services of 250 separate personnel over the length of the tsunami deployment. Many of the Kenyon team performed multiple rotations.
Using extensive experience in international repatriations, Kenyon repatriated all Australian deceased (26) who were killed as a result of the Tsunami. Kenyon also repatriated a large number of deceased from other affected countries.
A formal command structure was developed early in the response operation in support of the Thai National Police, comprised of two Kenyon Chiefs of Staff who reported to the Thai Royal National Police. Meetings were conducted with involvement from all affected countries where policy, procedures and day-to-day operations were discussed and implemented. Kenyon provided operational and technical input and support to the management team.
When an operational plan was developed with allocated roles, responsibilities and resources, the scope of the operation became manageable. Operationally, three separate mortuaries were operating to manage the number of recovered deceased. Refrigerated containers were acquired to manage the storage of the deceased. Kenyon provided valuable support with the provision of two mobile mortuaries, equipment, supplies and manpower.
To rectify the incident data management problem, Kenyon provided the Thai National Police a copy of their Plass Data DVI program. The program facilitates the matching of ante mortem and post mortem data. The system was set up in the DVIIMC for the whole operation. Kenyon IT specialists networked computers and assisted other countries with using the system.
Pressure from external bodies is evident when identifications of home nationals is slow. In the early stages of the response, difficulties were experienced with DNA comparisons. A number of changes were made to the deceased sample collection procedures and the DNA analysis. Once the revised procedures were implemented, the pressure on the various national DVI teams was minimized.
Over 90% of the reported missing persons have been positively identified - an outstanding result for an open disaster of this nature.
The Thai authorities, with support from international agencies, have responded to a catastrophic incident in an extremely professional manner, demonstrating respect and compassion to the deceased and their families.
Through the Department of Foreign Affair and Trade, the Australian Government provided outstanding support to the Thai authorities and the international community in their continued support of the response operation.
Kenyon provided continuous operational, technical and logistical support to the international response operation for over eight months.
If you would like to know more about Kenyon International Emergency Services and how we can complement your existing emergency plan please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact any of the Kenyon worldwide offices.
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Case study: Boxing Day Tsunami, 2004
On 26 December 2004 a tsunami occurred in the Indian Ocean. It was the result of the Indio-Australian Plate subducting below the Eurasian Plate. It was caused by an earthquake measuring more than magnitude 9. The earthquake caused the seafloor to uplift, displacing the seawater above.
- In open ocean the tsunami measured less than 1 metre high.
- The tsunami travelled at speeds up to 800km per hour.
- When the Tsunami reached the shores, the height of the wave increased to 15 metres in some areas.
- A quarter of a million people died.
- Two million people were made homeless.
- People were swept away in the waters, which arrived rapidly and with little warning.
- Thirteen countries were affected, the worst being Indonesia.
- Indonesia was hit by the tsunami first. Fourty-five minutes later the tsunami reached Thailand.
- Mangrove swamps helped to act as a barrier to reduce the energy of the water in some areas.
- Short-term aid, such as water purification tablets, temporary housing and medical supplies were given from international countries.
- Islands reliant on tourism and fishing, such as the Maldives, had to rebuild their industries.
- An early warning system between countries surrounding the Indian Ocean has been set up.
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Map of Indian Ocean tsunami 2004
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