Signs of ‘Significant’ Tsunami Damage Are Seen in Tonga

Credit…AFP/Getty Images

Since 2001, there have been 296 tsunami events, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

But destructive tsunamis are rare occurrences. According to the Global Historical Tsunami Database, tsunamis that cause damage or deaths near their source occur only about twice per year. Tsunamis that cause damage or deaths on distant shores more than 620 miles away happen about twice per decade.

These are some of the largest ones:

Indian Ocean in 2004

On Dec. 26, 2004, after a 9.1 magnitude underwater earthquake struck near the Indonesian island of Sumatra, walls of water traveled thousands of miles across the Pacific, killing more than 250,000 people in half a dozen countries across South and Southeast Asia, with thousands more missing.

The earthquake set off tsunamis that built up speeds of as much as 500 miles per hour, then crashed into coastal areas of Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives and Malaysia as 40-foot-high walls of water.

Credit…Kyodo News, via Associated Press

Japan in 2011

A 8.9-magnitude earthquake near the east coast of Honshu, Japan, set off a devastating tsunami, sending massive waves crashing over coastal cities in northern Japan on March 11, 2011.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the tsunami was “observed all over the Pacific and caused tremendous devastation locally.” The tsunami even triggered tidal gauges in parts of South America.

The highest wave from the tsunami was 127 feet in the Iwate Prefecture, a region over 300 miles north of Tokyo.

Indonesia in 2018

Two tsunamis within months of each other caused major destruction in parts of Indonesia.

On Sept. 28, 2018, a tsunami triggered by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake destroyed thousands of homes and killed more than 1,200 people on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia.

The damage was particularly destructive because Indonesia’s early warning system for tsunamis did not go off. The open water tsunami buoys had not worked since 2012 because of vandalism and a lack of maintenance.

Three months later, on Dec. 22, an undersea landslide caused by volcanic activity set off a second tsunami that mostly hit areas around the Sunda Straight, including beaches in Pandeglang District, Serang, and South Lampung according to the NOAA.

Chile 1960

In 1960, a 9.5-magnitude earthquake, thought to be the largest of the 20th century, hit near Chile’s coast outside the city of Valdivia, causing a tsunami. The disaster left about 1,600 people dead, with the tsunami responsible for 1,000 of those deaths. That tsunami also killed 60 people on the Hawaiian Islands and 200 people in Japan, according to NOAA.

Japan 1792

One of the most destructive tsunamis happened in Japan in the late 18th century. The accounts of the disaster in Japanese literature are somewhat contradictory, especially with respect to dates, but it is estimated that sometime in the winter of 1791 and 1792, there was a strong eruption of the Mount Unzen Volcano on Kyushu Island, the southwestern most point in Japan, that lasted for months.

At the end of the eruption, the side of the mountain collapsed and caused the tsunami, which was thrown to the east, toward the city of Kumamoto. The disaster is recorded as having killed 15,000 people, and a third of those were killed by the wave.

Source: NYT > Top Stories

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