Sri Lanka's beautfy belies its troubled history. Known as Ceylon until 1972, Sri Lanka is an island republic surrounded by the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is rich with beaches and has a tropical climate. Because of its location between the Middle East and Southeast Asia, the country has attracted traders, conquerors, and colonizers from all over the world. In spite of these international influences, a strong local culture has thrived, absorbing cultural elements from the Arabs, the Chinese, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British who came to the island. On December 26, 2004, tremors from an earthquake on the floor of the Indian Ocean set off a tsunami in southeastern Asia and eastern Africa. The tsunami slammed into the coasts of Sri Lanka, sweeping away villages and destroying schools, hospitals, and seaside hotels. The disaster took the lives of more than 30,000 Sri Lankans and left about 900,000 others without homes. In addition to the toll it took in lives and property, the tsunami also did substantial damage to Sri Lanka's economy. Instability continues as Sri Lanka works to restore its industries and to assist the hundreds of thousands displaced by the tsunami.