December 26, 2004 still ranks as the worst tsunami disaster in recorded history
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 28 December, 2016 - The dawn of this latest century has been a devastating time for tsunamis with events in Indonesia and Japan killing thousands of people. As we reflect on the anniversary of the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, let’s take a look at what exactly a tsunami is and how it’s caused.
Displaced water, suddenly moved by volcanic eruptions or landslides can have devastating consequences. When the earth’s plates shift and push water - much in the same way a swimmer displaces water when doing a cannonball into a placid pool - the force is so strong that the wave can travel thousands of miles at speed sup to 600 miles per hour.
But most importantly, the traveling wave has a thickness and power proportionate to the amount and force of the earth that displaced it.
When talking about tectonic plates moving around on the seabed one realises that this force can be quite strong. As with ocean waves, a deepwater tsunami is not a threat. It’s only when the force of all that water begins to slow down and rise up in shallow waters that the tsunami becomes a breaking wave carrying the same force as the earthquake that generated it.
Animation depicting tsunami: Source Wikicommons
Recently CNN, using data from Japan's fire and disaster agencies, released a list of the most destructive tsunamis of the past several hundred years.
Major or Notable Tsunamis
November 1, 1755 - An estimated 60,000 people are killed when an earthquake strikes Lisbon, Portugal, and causes a tsunami.
August 27, 1883 - An estimated 36,000 people are killed when the Krakatau volcano erupts causing a tsunami in the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra.
June 15, 1896 - An estimated 28,000 people are killed when an 8.5 magnitude earthquake strikes Sanriku, Japan, causing a tsunami.
December 28, 1908 - An estimated 70,000-100,000 people are killed when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake strikes Messina, Italy, and causes a tsunami in the Straights of Messina.
Copper engraving depicting Lisbon, Portugal, during the November 1755 earthquak: Image Public Domain
May 22, 1960 - An estimated 1,500 people are killed when a magnitude 9.5 earthquake strikes Chile and causes a tsunami.
March 28, 1964 - An estimated 128 people are killed when a magnitude 9.2 earthquake strikes Prince William Sound, Alaska, and causes a tsunami.
August 16, 1976 - An estimated 4,000-8,000 people are killed when a magnitude earthquake 8.0 strikes the Philippines and causes a tsunami.
July 17, 1998 - An estimated 2,200 people are killed when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake strikes Papua New Guinea and causes a tsunami.
December 26, 2004 - An estimated 227,898 people are killed when a 9.1 magnitude earthquake strikes near Sumatra, Indonesia, and causes a subsequent tsunami in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa.
October 25, 2010 - An estimated 449 people are killed when a magnitude 7.7 earthquake strikes Indonesia and causes a tsunami.
March 11, 2011 - A 9.1 magnitude earthquake takes place 231 miles northeast of Tokyo. The earthquake causes a tsunami with 30 ft waves that damage several nuclear reactors in the area. The combined total of confirmed deaths and missing is more than 22,000 (nearly 20,000 deaths and 2,500 missing).