Editor's note: This article, written in the immediate aftermath of the disastrous tsunami in December, was originally published in the 11 January 2005 issue of EOS, published by the American Geophysical Union, and is reprinted with permission. An appendum, written somewhat later, that describes the physics of tsunami propagation is posted online at www.agu.org/eos_elec.000929e1.html

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At 9:30 a.m. local time (03:30 GMT) on Boxing Day, 26 December, my wife Lillian and I were eating breakfast at the beachside Triton Hotel, Ahungalla, Sri Lanka (about 30 km north of Galle). The previous week we had been touring Sri Lanka, ending our trip...

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