The tsunami of December 26, 2004, struck hardest along the northwest coast of Sumatra, in Indonesia’s Aceh province. In places only 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the earthquake epicenter, the Aceh coast was drowned in waves up to 15 meters (50 feet) tall. The water was channeled inland through low-lying areas, such as stream floodplains.
These images of Gleebruk, a small town located roughly 50 km (31 miles) from Banda Aceh, show the degree of destruction. Wooded hills in the upper left of the images were spared, while the wave scoured the area alongside the stream in the center of the image. Buildings, trees, roads, bridges, beaches—and even topsoil—were swept away by the force of the wave. Satellite imagery is being used in the relief effort to locate and assess the damage in remote and inaccessible areas of Aceh province.
These images were acquired by DigitalGlobe’s QuickBird satellite on January 2, 2005, (top) and April 12, 2004 (lower). More imagery is available in DigitalGlobe’s tsunami gallery. Quickbird’s maximum resolution of 60 centimeters (24 inches) per pixel provides exceptional image detail. Due to variations in viewing geometry between the two images, the horizontal scale is approximate.