Though rare, tsunamis are among the most devastating natural disasters. They are a series of tidal waves usually caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, usually in an ocean or other body of water. Thus, tsunamis have no coastal boundaries. They can also be caused by an earthquake, volcano, or underwater or explosion (including detonations, landslides, meteor impacts, and other disturbances) either above or below water. Claiming more than 260,000 lives, or an average of 4,600 per disaster, the 58 that have occurred over the past 100 years have surpassed any other natural hazard.
Due to such heavy human and economic losses, in December 2015, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 5 as World Tsunami Awareness Day to promote a global culture of tsunami awareness. In its fourth year, World Tsunami Awareness Day 2019 promotes goal (d) of the “Sendai Seven Campaign” which focuses on disaster-induced damage reduction to critical infrastructure and disruption to basic services.
Here is a list of the cities that have been most devastated by the worst tsunamis in history:
North Pacific Coast- Tohoku, Japan-2011
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck the Tohoku region of Japan, causing tsunamis as high as 9.8 feet. It was the largest earthquake to ever hit the country and the fourth largest earthquake on record. Sweeping up the east coast of Japan, this powerful tsunami was traveling at 800km per hour. It killed more than 18,000 people, with 9,522 missing and 2,409 wounded. Besides that, the waves also caused radioactive leaks in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and led to a nuclear emergency. Some 452,000 people have been moved to shelters and still remain displaced from their destroyed homes.
Also read: Here’s everything you need to know about World Day for Disaster Reduction
Lisbon, Portugal- 1755
The Great Lisbon Earthquake of November 1, 1755 generated a series of three huge waves that hit various cities along the western coast of Portugal and southern Spain. With an epicenter in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 km from Cape St. Vincent in southern Portugal, the earthquake was estimated to be between 8.5 and 9.0 on the Richter scale. The waves caused by this earthquake occurred about 40 minutes after the earthquake and destroyed most of Lisbon in the Kingdom of Portugal. This double disaster has further triggered the third wave of devastation with fires throughout the urban areas. Waves were up to 66 feet high that pounded the coast of North Africa and impacted islands across the Atlantic such as Martinique and Barbados. This disaster killed 40,000 to 50,000 in Portugal, Spain and Morocco.
Krakatoa, Indonesia – 1883
An Indonesian volcano Krakatoa erupted four times in August 1883 which in turn led to four different tsunamis more than 100 feet high. The Krakatau caldera volcano erupted with such violence that there were absolutely no survivors on the island of Sebesi, which is 8 miles from the crater. Waves from the tsunami reached heights of 150 feet (37 m) and are said to have driven coral blocks as large as 600 tons ashore. Nearly 40,000 people in the Indonesian islands of West Java and South Sumatra were killed; however, most of those deaths attributed to tsunami waves.
Sumatra, Indonesia -2004
An undersea earthquake ranging in magnitude from 9.1 to 9.3 triggered a deadly tsunami that was felt in Sumatra, parts of Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The ensuing tsunami also affected 14 countries as far south as South Africa, and the death toll was around 230,000 people (about a third of those children). The fault zone that caused the tsunami was approximately 994 miles (1300 km) long which resulted in the tsunami being up to 50 m high, reaching 5 km inland near Meubolah, Sumatra.
The 1707 Hoei earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 8.4 was the second largest earthquake to ever hit Japan after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. It caused an ensuing tsunami that drove sea waves as high as 25 but hit the Pacific coasts of Kyushu, Shikoku and Honshin. A total of almost 30,000 buildings were damaged in the affected regions and around 30,000 people died as a result of this disaster. About a dozen large waves were reported to have been counted between 3pm and 4pm, some of which extended several kilometers inland from Kochi.
On December 28, 1908, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the Italian cities of Messina and Reggio di Calabria at 5:20 am. While the quake lasted only 30 to 40 seconds, it unleashed an 8-meter-high tsunami that killed nearly 40 people. , 000 people in just two cities. The epicenter of the earthquake was under the Strait of Messina, which separates the island of Sicily from the province of Calabria, the “toe” of Italy’s geographical “boot”.
Sanriku, Japan – 1896
The 1896 Meiji-Sanriku earthquake struck Japan after a magnitude 7.6 earthquake occurred off the coast of Sanriku, Japan. 35 minutes later, the tsunami was reported in Shirahama to have reached an elevation of 125 feet (38.2 m), causing damage to more than 11,000 homes and killing an estimated 22,000 people.
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