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Great tsunamis in history


NOAA


An overview of 20 of the most momentous tsunamis of the last 500 years




Tsunamis are among the most feared natural disasters on earth. A tsunami is a series of waves, usually caused by a sudden rise or fall in the sea floor. For example, from a seaquake, a landslide or a volcanic eruption. But there can also be other causes. Here we show you 20 of the most severe tsunamis of the past 500 years. We'll also look at how they came about and what consequences they had. The wave heights of all tsunamis are shown on the map. The wave height is the height that the wave has reached at a location above sea level. In the case of tsunamis caused by earthquakes, the severity of the quake is also indicated and the distribution of the wave energy is visualized. The wave energy measures the energy in the water that is distributed from the point of origin. The pink and white areas of the visualization have the highest wave energy, while the purple and blue show where the energy has been most distributed and is the lowest.



September 20, 1498


Cause: Earthquake with a surface wave magnitude of 8.3 Deaths: 31,000 In 1498 the Nankaidō region in Japan was struck by this tsunami. The waves were so strong that they broke the sandbar between Lake Hamana and the ocean, forever changing the topography of the area. On average, once a century Japan experiences a major earthquake with a resulting tsunami.



November 27, 1945


Cause: Earthquake with a moment magnitude of 8.1 Deaths: 4,000 Maximum wave height: 17 meters This tsunami was triggered by an earthquake, the epicenter of which was almost 100 kilometers off the coast of Pasni (Pakistan) in an active subduction zone - one Area where two tectonic plates meet and one slides under the other. The earthquake also caused mud volcanoes to erupt off the coast, creating four temporary islands. By 2004, this was the deadliest tsunami in Southeast Asia.



April 1, 1946


Cause: Earthquake with a moment magnitude of 8.6 Deaths: 160 Maximum wave height: 42 meters An earthquake off the coast of Unimak Island in Alaska, part of the Aleutian island chain, triggered a tsunami that spread across the Pacific. The worst hit was Hawaii, with the most deaths and property damage in excess of $ 26 million. Because of this disaster, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center was established.



4th November 1952


Cause: Earthquake with a moment magnitude of 9.0 Deaths: 10,000–15,000 Maximum wave height: 13 meters Similar to the tsunami of 1946, large parts of the Pacific coast were affected. An earthquake off the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula wreaked havoc along the east coast of Russia and Hawaii. The effects were also felt in Japan, Peru and Chile, although the damage there was minimal.



March 09, 1957


Cause: Earthquake with a moment magnitude of 8.6 Deaths: 2 Maximum wave height: 23 meters Only 11 years after the earthquake off the coast of Unimak Island, another very strong earthquake occurred near the Aleutian Islands in Alaska . The resulting tsunami caused severe damage to Adak Island, but again this time the island chain of Hawaii was particularly affected, which the tidal wave reached four hours later. Thanks to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC), there were no direct deaths from the tsunami. However, a pilot and a reporter whose plane crashed while documenting the tsunami near Oahu died.



May 22, 1960


Cause: Earthquake with a moment magnitude of 9.5 Deaths: 2,226 Maximum wave height: 25 meters This tsunami in southern Chile was triggered by the strongest earthquake ever recorded. It caused a tsunami that wreaked havoc along the coast of Chile, Hawaii, Japan, and the Philippines. In Chile, an estimated 2 million people were left homeless as a result of the tsunami. There were also several aftershocks, many of which were greater than 7.0 in magnitude.



March 28, 1964


Cause: Earthquake with a moment magnitude of 9.2 Deaths: 124 Maximum wave height: 52 meters This tsunami off the west coast of Alaska was caused by a severe earthquake that lasted over 4 minutes. In addition to some regional tsunamis, there were also several landslides, which also triggered further tidal waves. Alaska was primarily affected, but the effects were also felt in the Yukon Territory, British Columbia, Hawaii and on the west coast of the USA.



November 29, 1975


Cause: Earthquake with a moment magnitude of 7.7 Deaths: 2 Maximum wave height: 14 meters This tsunami was triggered by an earthquake off the coast of Hawaii. The quake developed slowly, which is why the tidal waves were larger than is usually the case with this strength. Up to five waves have been reported in some locations. The tsunami caused over $ 4 million in damage. As far as Alaska, California, Japan, Peru, Chile and the Galapagos Islands, mareographers recorded changes.



December 26, 2004


Cause: Earthquake with a moment magnitude of 9.1 Deaths or missing persons: 228,000 Maximum wave height: 50 meters This tsunami was triggered by the worst earthquake since 1964 off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The tsunami occurred just 20 minutes after the earthquake and caused over 1 million people in 14 countries in Southeast Asia and Africa to lose their homes. The property damage totaled over $ 10 billion. All over the world, mareographers recorded a rise in sea levels. Due to the extent of the disaster and because many vacationers had cameras or video cameras on hand, this tsunami is the best documented in history.



March 11, 2011


Cause: Earthquake with a moment magnitude of 9.0 Deaths: 18,000 Maximum wave height: 10 meters This tsunami off the east coast of Japan was triggered by the fourth strongest earthquake ever recorded. As a result of the disaster, the Fukushima I (Daiichi) nuclear power plant was also damaged and one of the worst nuclear accidents in history occurred. Over 450,000 people were left homeless as a result of the tsunami. The World Bank estimates the total damage to be over $ 235 billion. This makes the tsunami the most costly natural disaster of all time.



19th March 2017


Cause: Meteorological number of fatalities: 2 Maximum wave height: 3 meters This tsunami was not caused by an earthquake or another seismic eruption, but by meteorological forces. After a storm, standing waves, so-called seiches, formed in the Persian Gulf near the port of Dayyer, which turned into tsunamis on the coast. Nearly 300 boats capsized in the Gulf, causing $ 10 million in damage.



November 1, 1755


Cause: Earthquake with a moment magnitude of 8.5 Deaths: 60,000–100,000 Maximum wave height: 18 meters In 1755 "The Lisbon Earthquake" destroyed 85% of the buildings in the city. But the effects were not only felt in Lisbon. The earthquake created three tidal waves that flooded the coasts of Portugal, Spain and North Africa and caused damage even far away in the Caribbean.



22nd December 2018


Cause: Volcanic collapse Death toll: 437 Maximum wave height: 30 meters This tsunami in the Sunda Strait in Indonesia was triggered by the eruption and partial collapse of the Anak Krakatau volcano. It was particularly destructive: over 14,000 people were injured because there was no early warning system and the residents therefore did not have enough time to evacuate.



May 21, 1792


Cause: Volcanic collapse Death toll: 15,000 Maximum wave height: 55 meters In 1792, after an eruption, the Unzen volcano continuously spat lava for four months. This sustained magma flow weakened the Mayu-yama lava dome and plunged into Shimabara Bay, causing a tsunami.



August 13, 1868


Cause: Earthquake with a surface wave magnitude of over 8.5 Deaths: 25,000 Maximum wave height: 21 meters This tsunami was caused by two separate quakes that occurred at the epicenter off the coast of Arica, near the border between Peru and Chile, reached a strength of over 8.5. The resulting waves spread across the Pacific Basin. Many South American cities were hit by it. Property damage from the earthquake and tsunami is estimated at $ 300 million.



August 27, 1883


Cause: volcanic eruption Death toll: 36,000 Maximum wave height: over 30 meters This tsunami was triggered in 1883 by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history. The waves reached their zenith in the Sunda Strait and destroyed the cities of Anyar and Metrak in Indonesia. But the effects of the tsunami were felt in many countries around the world. Mareographers in Panama, France, England, and along the west coast of the United States have seen sea levels rise, although direct tsunamis may not have reached these locations. Researchers suspect a change in atmospheric pressure caused by the eruption as the reason for the increased readings.



June 15, 1896


Cause: Earthquake with a moment magnitude of 8.5 Deaths: 27,000 Maximum wave height: 38 meters An earthquake off the coast of the Japanese island of Honshu caused this devastating tsunami in 1896. The earthquake and the resulting tsunami occurred during a Shinto festival.



December 6, 1917


Cause: Ship accident and explosion Number of fatalities: 2,000 Maximum wave height: 10 meters Unlike most tsunamis, people here were the cause of the accident. The Mont Blanc, an ammunition ship from the First World War, was stationed in the port of Halifax and loaded with over 1 ton of explosives. When the Mont Blanc collided with the Norwegian Imo, it caught fire and exploded. The explosion not only destroyed the city, but also triggered a tsunami that ravaged the area.



November 18, 1929


Cause: Earthquake with a moment magnitude of 7.4 Deaths: 28 Maximum wave height: 13 meters An earthquake 250 kilometers off the coast of Newfoundland triggered an underwater slide at the Laurentisches Graben. This created a tsunami, the effects of which were felt as far as the Atlantic coast and caused damage, especially on the Burin Peninsula. The landslide also damaged 12 transatlantic telegraph cables.



September 13, 1936


Cause: rock slide Death toll: 74 Maximum wave height: 70 meters Lovatnet is a lake on the west coast of the Norwegian fjord country. In 1936, at a height of 800 meters, a rock with a volume of 1 million cubic meters detached itself from Mount Ramnefjellet and fell into the lake. The resulting wave destroyed the surrounding farms. That was the second disaster of its kind. In 1905 a large part of the Ramnefjell had come loose and fell into the lake. At that time, a 40 meter high wave was created and 62 people died.