Tsunami threat highlighted in new risk assessment studies

Published: Tuesday, 08 November 2016 09:51

Two new studies into tsunami threats around the world were published at the recent Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which took place in New Delhi.

The studies were introduced by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Robert Glasser, who warned against complacency in the face of the global tsunami threat which is often forgotten in parts of the world that have been affected in the distant past.

Mr. Glasser said that the reports include a detailed examination by Tohoku University of 400 years of data which shows that damaging tsunami events can happen in most regions of the world. Europe and the Americas are vulnerable as well as the countries surrounding the Indian and Pacific Oceans which have suffered considerably over the last 20 years.

Prof. Fumihiko Imamura, the lead author of one of the studies, ‘A Global Assessment of Tsunami Hazards Over The Last 400 Years’, said: “It is a huge disaster risk to forget about these events because they can recur. Some 50,000 people died in the Lisbon earthquake and tsunami of 1755. About 30,000 people died in tsunamis which struck Peru in the 17th and 19th centuries.  The Mediterranean and North America have also been affected.”

Prof.  Imamura said: “We need to raise people’s awareness of the tsunami threat. They are rare events so it is easy to forget but people must understand the phenomenon and most importantly know what to do and where to go once the alarm is raised. Hesitation can be fatal. In some cases tsunamis can reach populated areas in minutes.”

The other report, ‘Tsunami Disaster Risk’, issued by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, University of Louvain, Belgium, recalls that 16 major tsunamis killed 250,900 people in 21 countries between 1996 and 2016, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2011 Tohoku tsunami in Japan. Projected increases in deaths and numbers of affected by tsunamis and tsunami-like events globally are in the region of 16 percent.