Every year on November 5th, countries around the world observe World Tsunami Awareness Day. This day raises tsunami awareness and shares innovative approaches to risk reduction.
Tsunamis are rare, but when they do occur, they can be very destructive. Tsunamis are considered one of the deadliest types of natural disasters. The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 claimed 227,000 lives in 14 countries. In the last 100 years, 58 tsunamis have caused more than 260,000 lives. Tsunamis are most common in the Pacific Ocean and Indonesia. However, many other countries are at a high risk of experiencing tsunamis. These countries include:
- Chile and Peru
- West Coast of the United States
- New Zealand
An earthquake must occur before a tsunami. It’s the seismic activity from an earthquake that causes a series of eruptions in the ocean waters. These eruptions become giant waves. When these waves travel inland, they build up to higher and higher heights. The highest tsunami wave ever recorded was 100 feet high. This occurred in Alaska’s Lituya Bay in 1958. Because this area is sparsely populated, only five deaths were recorded. Besides achieving great heights, waves from tsunamis also travel quickly. During the Indian Ocean tsunami, the waves traveled 500 miles per hour.
Once a person has survived the earthquake preceding the tsunami, they must also survive the tidal wave that hits, and then the flooding that follows. When a tsunami warning is issued, it’s imperative to get to high ground or as far inland as possible.