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While not a cultural item in and of itself, in December 2004 the word tsunami entered the cultural consciousness of Oceanic Asia forever when a devastating 9.1 magnitude earthquake triggered a disaster thought to have killed over 200,000 people. The hardest hit areas were Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and amazing the surging waves traveled as far as South Africa and Madagascar.

In addition to the devastation felt by poor villagers on the coast of Indonesia whose entire towns were laid to waste, tragedy also struck travelers on the western coast of Thailand in resort areas like Phuket and Koh Phi Phi. The web is scattered with accounts of those lucky to survive and stories of those who did not. A collection of web images and videos on the disaster can be found at Wave of Destruction). The fallout after the event caused a huge tourism drop in Thailand.