A portion of the over 500 separate islands forming the Andaman archipelago are depicted in this image acquired on February 18, 2006. The islands, belonging to India, are located in the Bay of Bengal. The Andaman and the neighboring Nicobar Islands (to the south, not shown in this image) are inhabited by several hundred thousand persons, a mix of indigenous islanders and immigrants from the mainland of India. The islands have a moderate, tropical climate and a rich mixture of sandy beaches, mangroves, and dense tropical forests perched atop a rugged mountainous interior. The west side of the island is home to an extensive coral reef system, measuring over 300 kilometers (186 miles) in length. The islands are in a tectonically active region, close to where the massive earthquake (and ensuing tsunami) occurred on December 26, 2004. On that date, the on-going collision of the Indo-Australian and southeastern Eurasian plates caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands in the region and tens of thousands on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
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