The recent field study was undertaken at the request of the Maldive government's Ministry of Environment and Construction (MEC) and funded by the U.S. The islands of the Maldives are Holocene features that began forming 3,000 to 5,500 years ago. Orientation to tsunami approach: islands parallel to the approaching wave fronts suffered more damage.
The tsunami was described by many eyewitnesses as multiple waves (generally three) about 20 seconds to minutes apart.
Some eyewitnesses took photographs of water spouts occurring exactly at the same time as the tsunami struck.
Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Bruce Richmond returned in early March from a two-week trip to examine the impacts of the December 26 tsunami on the low-lying atolls of the Republic of Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Although the archipelago is about 2,500 km from the epicenter of the earthquake that triggered the tsunami, its average elevation of only 1.5 m left it exposed to the tsunami waves, which swept completely across many of the islands. The outside experts were joined by local counterparts from various Maldive government ministries who assisted with data collection and interpretation.

This phenomenon is believed to be a result of the tsunami refracting around the ends of the individual islands. Alteration of coastal landforms by the tsunami was greatest among islands situated close to the eastern reef rim facing the direction of tsunami approach. Although offshore bathymetry appears to have influenced the characteristics of the tsunami as it approached land, bathymetric information from the Maldives is so scanty that its effects are difficult to quantify. There were many reports of freshwater flowing out of wells and from the ground immediately before the tsunami's arrival.
As in other countries hit hard by the tsunami, human activities made some of the tsunami's impacts more severe. The tsunami wave heights typically decreased from east to west as the waves traveled across the islands. What the eyewitnesses were observing was the evolution of a single wave into multiple bores, called undulatory bores and (or) solitons, as the tsunami passed from deep water to shallow water over the reefs.
The impact of the tsunami serves as an indicator of the vulnerability of the Maldives to external forces of nature.

The tsunami accelerated this erosion, resulting in the undermining and collapse of several coastal structures.
The island city, struck by the tsunami about 3 hours and 18 minutes after the earthquake, escaped serious wave damage and was primarily affected by widespread flooding. The Maldives was the only country where the effects of the tsunami were felt across the entire country, rather than in certain parts or regions.
The tsunami's extent ranged from complete island overwash to inundation around island margins.
The tsunami occurred during daylight hours near low tide, two factors that probably helped keep the death toll relatively low.

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