However, the death toll from these was significantly lower, primarily because of the lower population density along the coasts near affected areas and the much greater distances to more populated coasts and also due to the superior infrastructure and warning systems in MEDCs (More Economically Developed Countries) such as Japan.
Other very large megathrust earthquakes occurred in 1868 (Peru, Nazca Plate and South American Plate); 1827 (Colombia, Nazca Plate and South American Plate); 1812 (Venezuela, Caribbean Plate and South American Plate) and 1700 (western North America, Juan de Fuca Plate and North American Plate).
All of them are believed to be greater than magnitude 9, but no accurate measurements were available at the time.
The 2002 Sumatra earthquake is believed to have been a foreshock, predating the main event by over two years.
A pause of about another 100 seconds took place before the rupture continued northwards towards the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
However, the northern rupture occurred more slowly than in the south, at about 2.1 km/s (1.3 mi/s) (7,500 km/h or 4,700 mph), continuing north for another five minutes to a plate boundary where the fault type changes from subduction to strike-slip (the two plates slide past one another in opposite directions).
Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.
It is the third-largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph and had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes.
Indonesia lies between the Pacific Ring of Fire along the north-eastern islands adjacent to New Guinea, and the Alpide belt that runs along the south and west from Sumatra, Java, Bali, Flores to Timor.The only other recorded earthquakes of magnitude 9.0 or greater were off Kamchatka, Russia, on 4 November 1952 (magnitude 9.0) and Tōhoku, Japan (magnitude 9.1) in March 2011.Each of these megathrust earthquakes also spawned tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean.The undersea megathrust earthquake was caused when the Indian Plate was subducted by the Burma Plate and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000–280,000 people in 14 countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 metres (100 ft) high.It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.
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The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred at UTC on 26 December with the epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.