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Tsunamis Warnings - What to do in a Tsunami

Updated on July 4, 2011

Tsunami Warning Center

In this article it is a follow up to my previous one entitled 'What to do in an Earthquake' because there are some considerable differences in a Tsunami alert.

Once again I will give a brief description to answer the question 'What is a Tsunami?' because these are even less known for being taught about at schools across the world and they only occur when an earthquake happens at sea.

Here are the Tsunami facts so you will know exactly what you are up against:

A Tsunami is a not a single wave it is a series of powerful waves that is caused when either an earthquake or landslide occurs at sea and disturbs the seabed and in turn unsettles the waters surrounding, also it is not necessarily the first waves that have the most force or causes the most damage.

Other possible causes of a Tsunami could be a large meteorite landing or volcanic eruption happening at sea, remember that Tsunamis should be confused with a Tidal waves since tides are caused by wind.

Where do Tsunamis occur?

Tsunamis can occur either 1000's of miles out at sea and still reach land with enough force to damage coastal houses and farmland or they can occur close to land and this means that there are sometimes only minutes to evacuate or sound a Tsunami warning.

Photo courtesy of michiganmoves

What to do in a Tsunami

I have included a video below which I think is aimed more at children that explains in a clear manner 'what to do in a Tsunami', however remember these important points issued from the official Tsunami warning centers:

  • Beware of rumbling and ground shaking from a nearby earthquake
  • The sea will suddenly reside and leave bare sand making the beach larger
  • Seagulls or pets dogs may begin acting strangely, flying/running inland, remember they are more perceptible than humans. 
  • Some beaches have electronic signs you should keep an eye on
  • Some beaches have speaker systems
  • If you are in the car or have a portable radio double check if you think something seems odd

Photo courtesy of simonbleasdale

Devastation left behind in 2010 Chilean Tsunami, corrosion and force of the waves destroys all in its path
Devastation left behind in 2010 Chilean Tsunami, corrosion and force of the waves destroys all in its path

Tsunami Warning System

If you have been informed by a Tsunami warning system that there is one approaching you should calmly remember these procedures:

  • Get away from the beach, even if the first Tsunami is relatively small they will continue to grow as they reach inland because the first waves push back into the follow ones.
  • Get to Higher ground preferably 50-100ft and help others such as children or elderly to climb to safety
  • Do not feel tempted to watch or film them because they can travel up to 500mph and you won't out run it.
  • Don't worry about personal items, it could save your life.
  • Stay away from the beach for several hours since more Tsunami's could arrive.

Photo courtesy of usgeologicalsurvey

Tsunami coastal damaged before and after satellite images of 2011 Japan Tsunami
Tsunami coastal damaged before and after satellite images of 2011 Japan Tsunami

2004 Tsunami in Indonesia

Tsunamis are a regular threat to some Asian countries and as we all know Japan was badly struck this year but we must not forget the tragic death toll in 2004 of nearly 300,000 people across several countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka and even Somalia 3000 miles away from where an earthquake of 9.15 on the Richter occurred off the coast of Indonesia.

Before the 2004 Tsunami the most damaging on record was one that occurred due to an earthquake in the South China sea that killed an estimated 40,000 people. Since we have  witnessed even greater devastation people are becoming more aware and wise to Tsunami preparedness, lets hope we don't forget what we have learned if we are lucky not to see one in the short term future!!

Photo courtesy of gsfc

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