Tsunamis: Facts About Killer Waves

Get the basics on tsunamis: what they are, what causes them, how they can be avoided, and more.

The Indian Ocean tsunami generated by the most powerful earthquake in decades on December 26 is believed to have killed more than 150,000 people and made millions homeless, making it perhaps the most destructive tsunami in history.

The epicenter of the 9.0 magnitude quake was under the Indian Ocean near the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors earthquakes worldwide. A violent movement of the Earth's tectonic plates displaced an enormous amount of water, sending powerful shock waves in every direction.

Within hours killer waves radiating from the epicenter slammed into the coastline of 11 Indian Ocean countries, snatching people out to sea, drowning others in their homes or on beaches, and demolishing

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