The island of Phuket on the Indian Ocean coast of Thailand is a major tourist destination, with inviting white sand beaches and warm sunny skies. Unfortunately for those living and visiting there to escape the Northern Hemisphere's winter gloom, it was also in the path of the Asian tsunami that washed ashore on December 26, 2004. This natural-color Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) satellite image shows how the island appeared on December 27, 2000, well before the wave of destruction. The island’s allure is plain to see in the image. White beaches lines the western coast; lush, forested hills overlook the beaches and towns; and the sapphire waters of the Andaman Sea stretch out to the west toward the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
It was these beaches that bore the brunt of the massive waves, which probably struck the west coast (left side) within an hour of the undersea earthquake. Devastation was particularly severe on Patong Beach, where luxury hotels and Western business chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks were located to serve the tourists. Along the Andaman Sea Coast of Thailand, more than 4,300 people were confirmed dead in the disaster as of December 30, 2004, and thousands more who were missing may be dead as well.
NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data obtained from the University of Maryland’s Global Land Cover Facility.