List of historical tsunamis

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A depiction of wave shoaling

This article lists notable historical tsunamis, which are sorted by the date and location that the tsunami occurred, the earthquake that generated it, or both.

Because of seismic and volcanic activity associated with tectonic plate boundaries along the Pacific Ring of Fire, tsunamis occur most frequently in the Pacific Ocean, but are worldwide natural phenomena. They are possible wherever large bodies of water are found, including inland lakes, where they can be caused by landslides and glacier calving. Very small tsunamis, non-destructive and undetectable without specialized equipment, occur frequently as a result of minor earthquakes and other events.

As early as 426 BC, the Greek historian Thucydides inquired in his book History of the Peloponnesian War (3.89.1–6) about the causes of tsunamis. He argued rightly that it could only be explained as a consequence of ocean earthquakes, and could see no other possible causes for the phenomenon.[1]

Crete and the Argolid and other locations were destroyed by a tsunami caused by the eruption of Thira, which destroyed Minoan civilization on Crete and related cultures in the Cyclades and in areas facing the eruption on the Greek mainland such as the Argolid.

During the Persian siege of the sea town Potidaea, Greece, in 479 BC,[2] the Greek historian Herodotus reports how the Persian attackers who tried to exploit an unusual retreat of the water were suddenly surprised by "a great flood-tide, higher, as the people of the place say, than any one of the many that had been before". Herodotus attributes the cause of the sudden flood to the wrath of Poseidon.[3]

Prehistoric[edit]

Date Location Main Article Primary Cause Description
≈7000–6000 BC Lisbon, Portugal Unknown A series of giant boulders and cobbles have been found 14 m above mean sea level near Guincho Beach.[4]
≈6225-6170 BC Norwegian Sea Storegga Slide Landslide The Storegga Slides occurred 100 km north-west of the Møre coast in the Norwegian Sea, causing a very large tsunami in the North Atlantic Ocean. This collapse involved an estimated 290 km length of coastal shelf, with a total volume of 3,500 km3 of debris.[5] Based on carbon dating of plant material recovered from sediment deposited by the tsunami, the latest incident occurred around ~6225-6170 BC.[6][7] In Scotland, traces of the subsequent tsunami have been recorded, with deposited sediment being discovered in Montrose Basin, the Firth of Forth, up to 80 km inland and 4 metres above current normal tide levels.
≈1600 BC Santorini, Greece Minoan eruption Volcanic Eruption The volcanic eruption on Santorini, Greece is assumed to have caused severe damage to cities around it, most notably the Minoan civilization on Crete. A tsunami is assumed to be the factor that caused the most damage.

Before 1001 AD[edit]

Date Location Main Article Primary Cause Description
426 BC Malian Gulf, Greece 426 BC Malian Gulf tsunami This is the first historic tsunami, as earlier events do not have written records (prehistoric). In the summer of 426 BC, a tsunami hit the Malian Gulf between the northwest tip of Euboea and Lamia.[8] The Greek historian Thucydides (3.89.1–6) described how the tsunami and a series of earthquakes affected the raging Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) and, for the first time in the history of natural science, correlated quakes with waves in terms of cause and effect.[9]
373 BC Helike, Greece Earthquake An earthquake and a tsunami destroyed the prosperous Greek city of Helike, 2 km away from the sea. The fate of the city, which remained permanently submerged, was often commented upon by ancient writers[10] and may have inspired the contemporary Plato to the myth of Atlantis.
60 BC Portugal and Galicia Earthquake An earthquake of intensity IX and an estimated magnitude of 6.7 caused a tsunami along the coasts of Portugal and Galicia.[11] Little more is known due to the scarcity of records from the Roman possession of the Iberian Peninsula.
79 AD Gulf of Naples, Italy Eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 Volcanic eruption A smaller tsunami was witnessed in the Bay of Naples by Pliny the Younger during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.[12]
115 AD Caesarea, Israel Earthquake(?) Underwater geoarchaeological excavations on the shallow shelf (∼10 m depth) at Caesarea, Israel, have documented a tsunami that struck the ancient harbor at Caesarea. Talmudic sources record a tsunami that struck on 13 December A.D. 115, impacting Caesarea and Yavne. The tsunami was probably triggered by an earthquake that destroyed Antioch, and was generated somewhere on the Cyprian Arc fault system.[13]
365 AD Alexandria, Southern and Eastern Mediterranean 365 Crete earthquake Earthquake On the morning of July 21, 365 AD, a large earthquake caused a tsunami more than 100 feet (30 m) high, devastating Alexandria and the eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean, killing many thousands, and hurling ships nearly two miles inland.[14][15] The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (Res Gestae 26.10.15–19) describes the typical sequence of tsunami events, including an earthquake, the sudden retreat of the sea, and a subsequent gigantic wave:
Slightly after daybreak, and heralded by a thick succession of fiercely shaken thunderbolts, the solidity of the whole earth was made to shake and shudder, and the sea was driven away, its waves were rolled back, and it disappeared, so that the abyss of the depths was uncovered and many-shaped varieties of sea-creatures were seen stuck in the slime; the great wastes of those valleys and mountains, which the very creation had dismissed beneath the vast whirlpools, at that moment, as it was given to be believed, looked up at the sun's rays. Many ships, then, were stranded as if on dry land, and people wandered at will about the paltry remains of the waters to collect fish and the like in their hands; then the roaring sea as if insulted by its repulse rises back in turn, and through the teeming shoals dashed itself violently on islands and extensive tracts of the mainland, and flattened innumerable buildings in towns or wherever they were found. Thus in the raging conflict of the elements, the face of the earth was changed to reveal wondrous sights. For the mass of waters returning when least expected killed many thousands by drowning, and with the tides whipped up to a height as they rushed back, some ships, after the anger of the watery element had grown old, were seen to have sunk, and the bodies of people killed in shipwrecks lay there, faces up or down. Other huge ships, thrust out by the mad blasts, perched on the roofs of houses, as happened at Alexandria, and others were hurled nearly two miles from the shore, like the Laconian vessel near the town of Methone which I saw when I passed by, yawning apart from long decay.[14]

This tsunami was possibly the deadliest of all time, devastating many large cities in what is now Libya and Tunisia, as well as Alexandria in Egypt. With a death toll in the hundreds of thousands, this event largely destroyed Greco-Roman civilization in North Africa. The anniversary of the disaster was still commemorated annually at the end of the 6th century in Alexandria as a "day of horror."[16]

Researchers at the University of Cambridge recently carbon dated corals on the coast of Crete which were lifted 10 metres and clear of the water during the earthquake. This indicates that the tsunami was generated by an earthquake in a steep fault in the Hellenic trench near Crete. Scientists estimate that such an uplift is only likely to occur once in 5,000 years; however, the other segments of the fault could slip on a similar scale every 800 years or so.[17]

551 AD Lebanese Coast 551 Beirut earthquake Earthquake The 9 July 551 AD earthquake was one of the largest seismic events in and around Lebanon during the Byzantine period. It destroyed several Lebanese coastal cities, including Beirut. The earthquake was associated with a tsunami along the Lebanese coast and a local landslide near Al-Batron. A large fire in Beirut also continued for almost two months.[18]
684 AD Hakuho, Japan Great Hakuho earthquake Earthquake The first recorded tsunami in Japan, it hit on November 29, 684 on the shore of the Kii Peninsula, Nankaido, Shikoku, Kii, and Awaji region. The earthquake, estimated at magnitude 8.4,[11] was followed by a huge tsunami, but no estimates exist for the number of deaths.[19]
869 AD Sendai, Japan 869 Jogan Sanriku earthquake Earthquake The Sendai region was struck by a major tsunami that caused flooding extending 4 km inland from the coast. The town of Tagajō was destroyed, with an estimated 1,000 casualties.
887 AD Nankai, Japan Earthquake On August 26 of the Ninna era, there was a strong shock in the Kyoto region, causing great destruction. At the same time, there was a strong earthquake in Osaka, Shiga, Gifu, and Nagano prefectures. A tsunami flooded the coastal region, and some people died. The coast of Osaka and primarily Osaka Bay suffered especially heavily, and the tsunami was also observed on the coast of Hyuga-Nada.[11]

1000–1700[edit]

Date Location Main Article Primary Cause Description
1293 AD Kamakura, Japan 1293 Kamakura earthquake Earthquake A magnitude 7.1 quake and tsunami hit Kamakura, then Japan's de facto capital, killing 23,000 after resulting fires.
1303 AD Eastern Mediterranean 1303 Crete earthquake Earthquake A team from Southern Cross University in Lismore, New South Wales, Australia, found evidence of five tsunamis that hit Greece over the past 2000 years. "Most were small and local, but in 1303 a larger one hit Crete, Rhodes, Alexandria and Acre in Israel."[20]
1361 AD Nankai, Japan Earthquake On Aug 3, 1361, during the Shōhei era, an 8.4 quake hit Nankaido, followed by a tsunami. A total of 660 deaths were reported. The earthquake shook Tokushima, Osaka, Wakayama, and Nara Prefectures and Awaji Island. A tsunami was observed on the coast of Tokushima and Kochi Prefectures, in Kii Strait and in Osaka Bay. Yunomine Hot Spring (Wakayama Prefecture) stopped. Yukiminato, Awa was completely destroyed by the tsunami, and more than 1,700 houses were washed away. 60 people drowned at Awa.
1498 AD Nankai, Japan 1498 Nankai earthquake Earthquake On September 20, 1498, during the Meiō era, a 7.5 earthquake and tsunami hit. The port in Wakayama damaged by a tsunami several meters high. 30–40 thousand deaths estimated.[11][21] The building around great Buddha of Kamakura (altitude 7m) was swept away by the tsunami.[22]
1531 AD Lisbon 1531 Lisbon earthquake Earthquake The earthquake of 26 January was accompanied by a tsunami in the Tagus River that destroyed ships in Lisbon harbour
1541 AD Nueva Cadiz, Venezuela Earthquake In 1528, Cristóbal Guerra founded Nueva Cádiz on the island of Cubagua, the first Spanish settlement in Venezuela. Nueva Cádiz, which reached a population between 1000 and 1500, was possibly destroyed in an earthquake followed by tsunami in 1541—it also could have been a major hurricane.[23] The ruins were declared a National Monument of Venezuela in 1979.
1605 AD Nankaido, Japan 1605 Keichō Nankaido earthquake Earthquake On February 3, 1605, in the Keichō era, a magnitude 8.1 quake and tsunami hit Japan. An enormous tsunami with a maximum known height of 30 m was observed on the coast from the Boso Peninsula to the eastern part of Kyushu Island. The eastern part of the Boso Peninsula, Tokyo Bay, the prefectures of Kanagawa and Shizuoka, and the southeastern coast of Kochi Prefecture suffered particularly heavily.[11] 700 houses (41%) in Hiro, Wakayama Prefecture were washed away, and 3,600 people drowned in the Shishikui area. Wave heights reached 6-7m in Awa, 5–6 m at Kannoura and 8–10 m at Sakihama. 350 drowned at Kannoura and 60 at Sakihama. In total more than 5,000 drowned.
1607 AD Bristol Channel, Great Britain Bristol Channel floods, 1607 Disputed On 30 January 1607, at least 2,000 drowned, while houses and villages were swept away and an area estimated at 200 square miles (520 km2) was inundated. Until the 1990s, it was undisputed that flooding was caused by a storm surge aggravated by other factors, but recent research indicates a tsunami.[24] The probable cause is postulated as a submarine earthquake off the Irish coast.
1693 AD Sicily 1693 Sicily earthquake Earthquake A large foreshock on January 9 was followed on January 11 by the most powerful earthquake in Italian history. The ensuing tsunami devastated the Ionian Sea coast and the Straits of Messina. It remains unclear whether the tsunami was directly caused by the earthquake or by a large underwater landslide triggered by the event.
1698 AD Seikaido-Nankaido, Japan Earthquake On December 22, 1698, a large tsunami struck Seikaido-Nankaido, Japan.[11]

1700s[edit]

Date Location Main Article Primary Cause Description
1700 AD Vancouver Island, Canada 1700 Cascadia earthquake Earthquake On 26 January 1700, the Cascadia earthquake, estimated Mw 9, ruptured the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) from offshore Vancouver Island to northern California, and caused a massive tsunami recorded in Japan and by the oral traditions of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.[25]
1707 AD Hōei, Japan 1707 Hōei earthquake Earthquake On 28 October 1707, during the Hōei era, a magnitude 8.4 earthquake and tsunami up to 10 m in height[26] struck Kochi Prefecture. More than 29,000 houses were wrecked and washed away, causing ~30,000 deaths. In Tosa Province, 11,170 houses were washed away, and 18,441 people drowned. About 700 drowned and 603 houses were washed away in Osaka. Waves reached 20 m[citation needed] at Tanezaki, Tosa, and 6.58 at Muroto. Hot springs at Yunomine, Sanji, Ryujin, Seto-Kanayana (Kii) and Dogo stopped flowing.[11]
1741 AD West Hokkaido, Japan Volcano On 29 August 1741, the western side of Hokkaido was hit by a tsunami associated with the eruption of the volcano on Oshima island. The cause of the tsunami is thought to have been a large landslide, partly submarine, triggered by the eruption.[27] 1,467 people were killed on Hokkaido and another 8 in Aomori Prefecture.[28]
1755 AD Lisbon, Portugal 1755 Lisbon earthquake Earthquake Tens of thousands of Portuguese people who survived the Great Lisbon Earthquake on 1 November 1755 were killed by a tsunami 40 minutes later. Many townspeople fled to the waterfront, believing the area safe from fires and from falling debris from aftershocks. These people observed the sea rapidly receding, revealing a sea floor littered with lost cargo and forgotten shipwrecks. The tsunami then struck with a maximum height of 15 metres (49 ft), traveling far inland.

The earthquake, tsunami, and fires killed from 40,000 to 50,000 people[29] (30,000 to 40,000 in Lisbon alone, which had a population of ~200,000), making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. Historical records of explorations by Vasco da Gama and other early navigators were lost, and among those buildings destroyed were most examples of Portugal's Manueline architecture. Europeans of the 18th century struggled to understand the disaster within religious and rational belief systems, and philosophers of the Enlightenment, notably Voltaire, wrote about the event. The philosophical concept of the sublime, as described by Immanuel Kant in the Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime, took inspiration in part from attempts to comprehend the enormity of the Lisbon quake and tsunami.

The tsunami took just over 4 hours to travel over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to Cornwall in the United Kingdom. An account by Arnold Boscowitz claimed "great loss of life." It also hit Galway, Ireland, and caused serious damage to the Spanish Arch section of the city wall.

1771 AD Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa, Japan 1771 Great Yaeyama Tsunami Earthquake

An undersea earthquake of estimated magnitude 7.4 occurred near Yaeyama Islands in the former Ryūkyū Kingdom (present day Okinawa, Japan) on 4 April 1771 at about 8 A.M. The earthquake is not believed to have directly resulted in any deaths, but a resulting tsunami is killed an estimated 12,000 people (9,313 on the Yaeyama Islands and 2,548 on Miyako Islands [30]). Estimates of the highest run-up on Ishigaki Island range from 30 to 85.4 meters. The tsunami put an abrupt stop to population growth on the islands, and was followed by malaria epidemics and crop failures which further decreased the population. It took 148 years for the population to return to pre-tsunami levels.

1781 AD Pingtung, Taiwan In April or May of 1781, according to Records of Taiwan County, in Jiadong, Pingtung County, a ten-foot wave engulfed the town. Fish and shrimp thrashed wildly on the shore and nearby fishing villages wiped out. However, there was no earthquake reported.[31] A different source claims a 30-meter wave with also struck Tainan.[32] A possibility is a misrecording of date, corresponding with the above Great Yaeyama event.
1783 AD Calabria, Italy 1783 Calabrian earthquakes Earthquake The earthquake was the second of a sequence of five shocks that struck Calabria. The citizens of Scilla spent the night following the first earthquake on the beach, where they were swept away by the tsunami, causing 1500 deaths. The tsunami was caused by the collapse of Monte Paci into the sea, near the town.
1792 AD Mount Unzen, Nagasaki Prefecture, Kyūshū, Japan 1792 Unzen earthquake and tsunami Volcanic Processes Tsunamis were the main cause of death for Japan's worst-ever volcanic disaster, an eruption of Mount Unzen in Nagasaki Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan. Towards the end of 1791 a series of earthquakes on the western flank of Mount Unzen gradually moved towards Fugen-dake, one of Mount Unzen's peaks. In February 1792, Fugen-dake started to erupt, triggering a lava flow which continued for two months. The earthquakes continued, shifting nearer to the city of Shimabara. On the night of 21 May, two large earthquakes were followed by a collapse of the eastern flank of Mount Unzen's Mayuyama dome, causing an avalanche which swept through Shimabara and into Ariake Bay, triggering a tsunami. It is not known whether the collapse occurred as a result of an eruption of the dome or as a result of the earthquakes. The tsunami struck Higo Province on the other side of Ariake Bay before bouncing back. Out of an estimated 15,000 fatalities, around 5,000 are thought to have been killed by the landslide, around 5,000 by the tsunami across the bay in Higo Province, and a further 5,000 by the tsunami returning to strike Shimabara. The waves reached a height of 330 ft (100 m), making this a small megatsunami.

1800s[edit]

Date Location Main Article Primary Cause Description
1819 AD Gujurat, India 1819 Rann of Kutch earthquake Earthquake A local tsunami flooded the Great Rann of Kutch
1833 AD Sumatra, Indonesia 1833 Sumatra earthquake Earthquake On 25 November 1833, a massive earthquake estimated to have been between 8.8–9.2 on the moment magnitude scale, struck Sumatra in Indonesia. The coast of Sumatra near the quake's epicentre was hardest hit by the resulting tsunami.
1854 AD Nankai, Tokai, and Kyushu, Japan Ansei great earthquakes Earthquake The Ansei quake which hit the south coast of Japan, was actually a set of three earthquakes, two magnitude 8.4 quakes and a 7.4 quake over the course of several days.
  • An 8.4 magnitude earthquake on November 4, 1854, near what is today Aichi Prefecture and Shizuoka Prefecture produced tsunami heights of 4–6 m (with localized run-ups up to 16.5 m, thought to be due to harbor shape).[33]
  • Another 8.4 magnitude earthquake on November 5 in Wakayama Prefecture. The resulting tsunami reached as high as 8.4 m.[34] The tsunami washed 15,000 homes away.[citation needed] The number of homes destroyed directly by the earthquake was 2,598; 1,443 people died.[11]
  • A magnitude 7.4 earthquake on Nov 7, 1854 in Ehime Prefecture and Oita Prefecture.

The total result was 80,000–100,000 deaths.[35]

1855 AD Edo, Japan 1855 Ansei Edo earthquake Earthquake The following year, the 1855 Great Ansei Edo Quake hit the Tokyo region of Japan, killing 4,500 to 10,000 people. Popular stories of the time blamed the quakes and tsunamis on giant catfish called Namazu thrashing about. The Japanese era name was changed to bring good luck after four disastrous quakes/tsunamis in two years.
1867 AD Keelung, Taiwan Earthquake Dec 18, 1867, a large quake hit Keelung, Taiwan, causing crustal deformation of the mountains and opening of fissures. The water drained out of Keelung harbor so that the sea bed was revealed, then suddenly returned in a huge wave. Boats were washed into the city center and there was much damage. In many locations, the ground and the mountains split open and water poured from the fissures. Hundreds of deaths resulted.[31][32]
1868 AD Hawaiian Islands 1868 Hawaii earthquake Earthquake On April 2, 1868, a local earthquake with a magnitude estimated between 7.5 and 8.0 rocked the southeast coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. It triggered a landslide on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano, five miles (8 km) north of Pahala, killing 31 people. A tsunami then claimed 46 additional lives. The villages of Punaluu, Ninole, Kawaa, Honuapo, and Keauhou Landing were severely damaged and the village of Apua was destroyed. According to one account, the tsunami "rolled in over the tops of the coconut trees, probably 60 feet high .... inland a distance of a quarter of a mile in some places, taking out to sea when it returned, houses, men, women, and almost everything movable." This was reported in the 1988 edition of Walter C. Dudley's book "Tsunami!" (ISBN 0-8248-1125-9).
1868 AD Arica, Chile 1868 Arica earthquake Earthquake On August 16, 1868, an earthquake with a magnitude estimated at 8.5 struck the oceanic trench currently known as the Peru–Chile Trench. A resulting tsunami struck the port of Arica, then part of Peru, killing an estimated 25,000 in Arica and 70,000 in all. Three military vessels anchored at Arica, the US warship USS Wateree and the storeship Fredonia, and the Peruvian warship America, were swept up by the tsunami.[36]
1877 AD Iquique, Chile 1877 Iquique earthquake Earthquake On May 9, 1877, an earthquake with a magnitude estimated at 8.5 occurred off the coast of what is now Chile that caused a destructive tsunami that killed about 2541 people. This event followed the destructive earthquake and tsunami at Arica by just nine years.[37]
1881 AD Andaman Islands, Nicobar Islands 1881 Nicobar Islands earthquake Earthquake The tsunami triggered by this earthquake was recorded all round the coast of the Bay of Bengal by tide gauges. This information has been used to estimate the rupture area and magnitude of the earthquake.
1883 AD Krakatoa, Sunda Strait, Indonesia 1883 eruption of Krakatoa Volcanic eruption The island volcano of Krakatoa in Indonesia exploded with devastating fury on August 26–27, 1883, blowing its underground magma chamber partly empty so that much overlying land and seabed collapsed into it. A series of large tsunami waves were generated from the collapse, some reaching a height of over 40 meters above sea level. Tsunami waves were observed throughout the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and even as far away as the American West Coast, and South America. On the facing coasts of Java and Sumatra the sea flood went many miles inland and caused such vast loss of life[38] that one area was never resettled but reverted to the jungle and is now the Ujung Kulon nature reserve.
1896 AD Meiji Sanriku, Japan 1896 Sanriku earthquake Earthquake On 15 June 1896, at around 19:36 local time, a large undersea earthquake off the Sanriku coast of northeastern Honshu, Japan, triggered tsunami waves which struck the coast about half an hour later. Although the earthquake itself is not thought to have resulted in any fatalities, the waves, which reached a height of 100 feet (30 m), killed approximately 27,000 people. In 2005, the same general area was hit by the 2005 Sanriku Japan Earthquake, but with no major tsunami.

1900–1950[edit]

Date Location Main Article Primary Cause Description
1906 AD Tumaco-Esmeraldas, Colombia-Ecuador 1906 Ecuador–Colombia earthquake Earthquake The earthquake triggered a tsunami that killed 500 people in Tumaco and Esmeraldas and struck Colombia, Ecuador, California, Hawaii, and Japan. Waves were 5 meters high.
1908 AD Messina, Italy 1908 Messina earthquake Earthquake
The aftermath of the tsunami that struck Messina in 1908
A large tsunami took about 123,000 lives.[39]
1918 AD Puerto Rico 1918 San Fermín earthquake Earthquake/Submarine landslide A large tsunami (that may have been associated with a submarine landslide) affected northwest Puerto Rico.[40]
1923 AD Kanto, Japan 1923 Great Kantō earthquake Earthquake The Great Kanto earthquake, which occurred in eastern Japan on 1 September 1923, and devastated Tokyo, Yokohama, and the surrounding areas, caused tsunamis which struck the Shonan coast, Boso Peninsula, Izu Islands and the east coast of Izu Peninsula, within minutes in some cases. In Atami, waves reaching 12 meters were recorded. Examples of tsunami damage include about 100 people killed along Yuigahama beach in Kamakura and an estimated 50 people on the Enoshima causeway. However, tsunamis only accounted for a small proportion of the final death toll of over 100,000, most of whom were killed in fire.
1929 AD Newfoundland 1929 Grand Banks earthquake Earthquake On November 18, 1929, an earthquake of magnitude 7.2 occurred beneath the Laurentian Slope on the Grand Banks. The quake was felt throughout the Atlantic Provinces of Canada and as far west as Ottawa and as far south as Claymont, Delaware. The resulting tsunami measured over 7 meters in height and took about 2½ hours to reach the Burin Peninsula on the south coast of Newfoundland, where 28 people lost their lives in various communities. It also snapped telegraph cables laid under the Atlantic.[41]
1932 AD Mexico 1932 Jalisco earthquakes Earthquake Three very large-to-great shocks off the coast of Jalisco in June 1932 each generated tsunamis. The last and smallest event in the series occurred updip relative to the mainshock and generated the largest tsunami.[42]
1933 AD Showa Sanriku, Japan 1933 Sanriku earthquake Earthquake On March 3, 1933, the Sanriku coast of northeastern Honshu, Japan, which had already suffered a devastating tsunami in 1896 (see above) was again stuck by tsunami waves as a result of an offshore magnitude 8.1 earthquake. The quake destroyed about 5,000 homes and killed 3,068 people, the vast majority as a result of tsunami waves. Especially hard hit was the coastal village of Taro (now part of Miyako city) in Iwate Prefecture, which lost 42% of its total population and 98% of its buildings. Taro is now protected by an enormous tsunami wall, currently 10 meters in height and over 2 kilometers long. The original wall, constructed in 1958, saved Taro from destruction of the 1960 Chilean tsunami (see below). However it failed to protect Taro from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami which inundated the village with 12–15 meters of water.[43]
1944 AD Tonankai, Japan 1944 Tōnankai earthquake Earthquake A magnitude 8.0 earthquake on 7 December 1944, about 20 km off the Shima Peninsula in Japan, which struck the Pacific coast of central Japan, mainly Mie, Aichi, and Shizuoka Prefectures. News of the event was downplayed by the authorities in order to protect wartime morale, and as a result the full extent of the damage is not known, but the quake is estimated to have killed 1223 people, the tsunami being the leading cause of the fatalities.
1946 AD Nankaidō, Japan 1946 Nankaidō earthquake Earthquake The Nankai earthquake on 21 December 1946 had a magnitude of 8.4 and hit at 04:19 (local time). There was a catastrophic earthquake on the southwest of Japan in the Nankai Trough. It was felt almost everywhere in the central and western parts of the country. The tsunami that washed away 1451 houses and caused 1500 deaths in Japan. It was observed on tide gauges in California, Hawaii, and Peru.[11]

The Nankai megathrust earthquakes are periodic earthquakes occurring off the southern coast of Kii Peninsula and Shikoku, Japan every 100 to 150 years. Particularly hard hit were the coastal towns of Kushimoto and Kainan on the Kii Peninsula. The quake led to more than 1400 deaths, tsunami being the leading cause.

1946 AD Aleutian Islands 1946 Aleutian Islands earthquake Earthquake
Residents running from an approaching tsunami in Hilo, Hawaii

On April 1, 1946, the Aleutian Islands tsunami killed 159 people on Hawaii and five in Alaska (the lighthouse keepers at the Scotch Cap Light in the Aleutians). It resulted in the creation of a tsunami warning system known as the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC), established in 1949 for Oceania countries. The tsunami is known as the April Fools Day Tsunami in Hawaii due to some people thinking the warnings were an April Fools prank.

1950–2000[edit]

Date Location Main Article Primary Cause Description
1952 AD Severo-Kurilsk, Kuril Islands, USSR 1952 Severo-Kurilsk tsunami The November 5, 1952 tsunami killed 2,336 on the Kuril Islands with the magnitude of 9.0, USSR.
1956 AD Amorgos, Greece Earthquake Fifty-three deaths occurred during the largest 20th-century earthquake in Greece. The island of Santorini was damaged by the shock, and a localised tsunami affected the Cyclades and Dodecanese island groups. A maximum runup of 30 m (98 ft)) was observed on the southern coast of Amorgos.[44]
1958 AD Lituya Bay, Alaska, USA 1958 Lituya Bay megatsunami Earthquake-triggered landslide On the night of July 9, 1958 an earthquake along the Fairweather Fault in the Alaska Panhandle loosened about 40 million cubic yards (30.6 million cubic meters) of rock high above the northeastern shore of Lituya Bay. This mass of rock plunged from an altitude of approximately 3000 feet (914 meters) down into the waters of Gilbert Inlet. The impact generated a local tsunami that crashed against the southwest shoreline of Gilbert Inlet. The wave hit with such power that it swept completely over the spur of land that separates Gilbert Inlet from the main body of Lituya Bay. The wave then continued down the entire length of Lituya Bay, over La Chaussee Spit and into the Gulf of Alaska. The force of the wave removed all trees and vegetation from elevations as high as 1720 feet (524 meters) above sea level. Millions of trees were uprooted and swept away by the wave. This is the highest wave that has ever been known.
1960 AD Valdivia, Chile and Pacific Ocean 1960 Valdivia earthquake Earthquake The magnitude-9.5 Great Chilean Earthquake of May 22, 1960 is the strongest earthquake ever recorded, and generated one of the most destructive tsunamis of the 20th Century. It also caused a volcanic eruption. The tsunami spread across the Pacific Ocean, with waves measuring up to 25 meters high in places. The first tsunami wave struck at Hilo approximately 14.8 hrs after it originated off the coast of South Central Chile. The highest wave at Hilo Bay was measured at ~10.7 m (35 ft). 61 lives were lost, allegedly due to people's failure to heed warning sirens. Almost 22 hours after the quake, the waves hit the Sanriku coast of Japan, reaching up to 3 m above high tide, and killing 142 people. Up to 6,000 people died in total worldwide due to the earthquake and tsunami.[45]
1963 AD Vajont Dam, Monte Toc, Italy Vajont Dam Landslide
The Vajont Dam as seen from Longarone on 25 September 2012, showing the top 60–70 metres. The 200–to-250-metre (656-to-820-foot) megatsunami would have obscured virtually all of the sky in this picture.

The Vajont Dam was completed in 1961 under Monte Toc, 100 km north of Venice, Italy. At 262 metres (860 feet), it was one of the highest dams in the world. On October 9, 1963 an enormous landslide of about 260 million cubic metres of forest, earth, and rock, fell into the reservoir at up to 110 km per hour (68 mph). The resulting displacement of water caused 50 million cubic metres of water to overtop the dam in a 250-metre (820-foot) high megatsunami wave. The flooding destroyed the villages of Longarone, Pirago, Rivalta, Villanova and Faè, killing 1,450 people. Almost 2,000 people (some sources report 1,909) perished in total.

1964 AD Niigata, Japan 1964 Niigata earthquake Earthquake 28 people died, and entire apartment buildings were destroyed by liquefaction. The subsequent tsunami destroyed the port of Niigata.
1964 AD Alaska, USA and Pacific Ocean 1964 Alaska earthquake Earthquake After the magnitude 9.2 Good Friday Earthquake of March 27, 1964, tsunamis struck Alaska, British Columbia, California, and coastal Pacific Northwest towns, killing 121 people. The waves were up to 100 feet (30 m) tall, and killed 11 people as far away as Crescent City, California.
1969 AD Portugal, Morocco 1969 Portugal earthquake Earthquake A large undersea earthquake off the coast of Portugal generated a tsunami that affected both Portugal and Morocco.[46]
1976 AD Moro Gulf, Mindanao, Philippines 1976 Moro Gulf earthquake Earthquake On August 16, 1976 at 12:11 A.M., magnitude 7.9 earthquake hit the island of Mindanao, Philippines. The resultant tsunami devastated more than 700 km of coastline bordering Moro Gulf in the North Celebes Sea. An estimated casualties included 5,000 dead, 2,200 missing or presumed dead, more than 9,500 injured and a total of 93,500 people left homeless. It devastated the cities of Cotabato, Pagadian, and Zamboanga, and the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, and Zamboanga del Sur.
1979 AD Tumaco, Colombia 1979 Tumaco earthquake Earthquake A magnitude 8.1 earthquake occurred on December 12, 1979 at 7:59:4.3 UTC along the Pacific coast of Colombia and Ecuador. The earthquake and resulting tsunami destroyed at least six fishing villages and killed hundreds of people in the Colombian Department of Nariño. The earthquake was felt in Bogotá, Cali, Popayán, Buenaventura, Guayaquil, Esmeraldas, and Quito. The tsunami caused huge destruction in the city of Tumaco, as well as in the towns of El Charco, San Juan, Mosquera, and Salahonda on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Casualties included 259 dead, 798 wounded and 95 missing or presumed dead.
1980 AD Spirit Lake, Washington, USA Spirit Lake (Washington), 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, Mount St. Helens Volcanic eruption On May 18, 1980, in the course of a major eruption of Mount St. Helens, the upper 460 m (1400 ft) of the mountain failed, causing a major landslide. One lobe of the landslide surged onto the nearby Spirit Lake, creating a megatsunami 260 meters (853 feet) high.[47]
1983 AD Sea of Japan 1983 Sea of Japan earthquake Earthquake On May 26, 1983 at 11:59:57 local time, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake occurred in the Sea of Japan, about 100 km west of the coast of Noshiro in Akita Prefecture, Japan. Out of the 107 fatalities, all but four were killed by the resulting tsunami, which struck communities along the coast, especially Aomori and Akita Prefectures and the Noto Peninsula. Footage of the tsunami hitting the fishing harbor of Wajima on Noto Peninsula was broadcast on TV. The waves exceeded 10 meters in some areas. Three of the fatalities were along the east coast of South Korea (whether North Korea was affected is not known). The tsunami also hit Okushiri Island, the site of a more deadly tsunami 10 years later. This tsunami killed 104 people and injured 235.
1992 AD Nicaragua 1992 Nicaragua earthquake Earthquake A 7.2+ quake hit offshore in Nicaragua, sending a devastating tsunami into the Rivas department coast, killing some 116 people. The wave magnitude, 9.9 meters high, was unusually large given the size of the earthquake.
1993 AD Okushiri, Hokkaido, Japan 1993 Hokkaido earthquake Earthquake A devastating tsunami wave occurred along the coasts of Hokkaido in Japan as a result of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, 80 miles (130 km) offshore, on July 12, 1993. Within minutes, the Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning that was broadcast on NHK in English and Japanese (archived at NHK library). However, it was too late for Okushiri, a small island near the epicenter, where some waves reached 30 meters and struck within two to five minutes of the quake. Despite being surrounded by tsunami barriers, Aonae, a village on a low-lying peninsula, was devastated over the course of the following hour by 13 waves over two meters high arriving from multiple directions, including waves that bounced back off Hokkaido. Of 250 people killed as a result of the quake, 197 were victims of the tsunami that hit Okushiri; the waves also caused deaths on the coast of Hokkaido. While many residents, remembering the 1983 tsunami (see above), survived by quickly evacuating on foot to higher ground, it is thought that many others underestimated how soon the waves would arrive (the 1983 tsunami took 17 minutes to hit Okushiri) and were killed as they attempted to evacuate by car along the village’s narrow lanes. The highest wave of the tsunami was 31 meters (102 ft) high.
1994 AD Java earthquake 1994 Java earthquake Earthquake Two hundred and fifty killed as a M7.8 earthquake and tsunami affected east Java and Bali on June 3, 1994.
1998 AD Papua New Guinea 1998 Papua New Guinea earthquake Earthquake On 17 July 1998, a Papua New Guinea tsunami killed approximately 2,200 people.[48] A 7.1-magnitude earthquake 24 km offshore was followed within 11 minutes by a tsunami about 15 metres tall. The tsunami was generated by an undersea landslide, which was triggered by the earthquake. The villages of Arop and Warapu were destroyed.
1999 AD Sea of Marmara 1999 İzmit earthquake Earthquake The earthquake triggered a tsunami in the Sea of Marmara, with a maximum water height of 2.52 m. 150 people were killed when the town of Degirmendere was flooded and a further five were swept into the sea at Ulaşlı.[49][50]

2000s[edit]

Date Location Main Article Primary Cause Description
2004 AD Indian Ocean 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake Earthquake
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake; Tsunami striking Ao Nang, Thailand
Animation of the tsunami caused by the earthquake showing how the tsunami radiated from the entire length of the 1,600 km (990 mi) rupture

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which had a moment magnitude of 9.1–9.3,[11] triggered a series of lethal tsunamis on 26 December 2004, that killed approximately 230,210 people (including 168,000 in Indonesia alone), making it the deadliest tsunami as well as one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. It was also caused by the third largest earthquake in recorded history. The initial surge was measured at a height of approximately 33 meters (108 ft), making it the largest earthquake-generated tsunami in recorded history. The tsunami killed people over an area ranging from the immediate vicinity of the quake in Indonesia, Thailand, and the north-western coast of Malaysia, to thousands of kilometres away in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and even as far away as Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania in East Africa. This trans-Indian Ocean tsunami is an example of a teletsunami, which can travel vast distances across the open ocean. In this case, it is an ocean-wide tsunami.

Unlike in the Pacific Ocean, there was no organized alert service covering the Indian Ocean. This was in part due to the absence of major tsunami events since 1883 (the Krakatoa eruption, which killed 36,000 people). In light of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, UNESCO and other world bodies have called for an international tsunami monitoring system.

2006 AD South of Java Island 2006 Pangandaran earthquake and tsunami Earthquake A 7.7 magnitude earthquake rocked the Indian Ocean seabed on July 17, 2006, 200 km south of Pangandaran, a beach famous to surfers for its perfect waves. This earthquake triggered tsunamis which height varied from 2 meters at Cilacap to 6 meters at Cimerak beach, where it swept away and flattened buildings as far as 400 metres away from the coastline. More than 800 people were reported missing or dead.
2006 AD Kuril Islands 2006 Kuril Islands earthquake Earthquake On 15 November 2006, a magnitude 8.3 earthquake occurred off the coast near the Kuril Islands. In spite of the quake's large 8.3 magnitude, a relatively small tsunami was generated. The small tsunami was recorded or observed in Japan and at distant locations throughout the Pacific.
2007 AD Solomon Islands 2007 Solomon Islands earthquake Earthquake On April 2, 2007, a powerful magnitude 8.1 (initially 7.6) earthquake hit the East Pacific region about 40 km (25 mi), south of Ghizo Island in the western Solomon Islands at 7:39 a.m., resulting in a tsunami that was up to 12 m (36 feet) tall. The wave, which struck the coast of Solomon Islands (mainly Choiseul, Ghizo Island, Ranongga, and Simbo), triggered region-wide tsunami warnings and watches extending from Japan to New Zealand to Hawaii and the eastern seaboard of Australia. The tsunami that followed the earthquake killed 52 people. Dozens more have been injured with entire towns inundated by the sweeping water which traveled 300 meters inland in some places. A state of national emergency was declared for the Solomon Islands. On the island of Choiseul, a wall of water reported to be 9.1 m (30 feet) high swept almost 400 meters inland destroying everything in its path. The largest waves hit the northern tip of Simbo Island. There two villages, Tapurai and Riquru, were completely destroyed by a 12 m wave, killing 10 people. Officials estimate that the tsunami displaced more than 5000 residents all over the archipelago.
2007 AD British Columbia Landslide On 4 December 2007, a landslide entered Chehalis Lake in British Columbia, generating a large lake tsunami that destroyed campgrounds and vegetation many meters above the shoreline.[51]
2009 Samoa 2009 Samoa earthquake Earthquake The 2009 Samoa earthquake was an 8.1 MW submarine earthquake that took place in the Samoan Islands region at 06:48:11 local time on September 29, 2009 (17:48:11 UTC, September 29). At a magnitude of 8.1, it was the largest earthquake of 2009.

A tsunami was generated which caused substantial damage and loss of life in Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center recorded a 76 mm (3.0 in) rise in sea levels near the epicenter, and New Zealand scientists determined that the waves measured 14 m (46 ft) at their highest on the Samoan coast. The quake occurred on the outer rise of the Kermadec-Tonga Subduction Zone. This is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates in the Earth's lithosphere meet and earthquakes and volcanic activity are common. Countries affected by the tsunami in the areas that were hit are American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga (Niuatoputapu) where more than 189 people were killed, especially children, most of them in Samoa. Large waves with no major damage were reported on the coasts of Fiji, the northern coast of New Zealand and Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. People took precautions in the low-lying atolls of Tokelau and moved to higher ground. Niue was reported as reasonably safe because it is high. There were no reports of high waves from Vanuatu, Kiribati, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands.

2010 AD Chile 2010 Chile earthquake Earthquake
Destruction provoked by the 2010 Chile earthquake and tsunami, in Pichilemu, O'Higgins Region, Chile

An 8.8 earthquake offshore of Chile caused a tsunami which caused serious damage and loss of life, it also caused minor effects in other Pacific nations.

2010 AD Sumatra October 2010 Sumatra earthquake and tsunami Earthquake A 7.7 earthquake struck near South Pagai Island in Indonesia triggering a localized tsunami that killed at least 408 people.
2011 AD New Zealand 2011 Christchurch earthquake Earthquake-triggered ice fall On February 22, 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the Canterbury Region of the South Island, New Zealand. Some 200 kilometres (120 mi) away from the earthquake's epicenter, around 30 million tonnes of ice tumbled off the Tasman Glacier into Tasman Lake, producing a series of 3.5 m (11 ft) high tsunami waves, which hit tourist boats in the lake.[52][53]
2011 AD Pacific coast of Japan 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami Earthquake
NOAA animation of the tsunami's propagation

On March 11, 2011, off the Pacific coast of Japan, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake produced a tsunami 33 feet (10 m) high along Japan's northeastern coast. The wave caused widespread devastation, with an official count of 18,550 people confirmed to be killed/missing.[54] The highest tsunami which was recorded at Miyako, Iwate reached a total height of 40.5 metres (133 ft).[55] In addition the tsunami precipitated multiple hydrogen explosions and nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. Tsunami warnings were issued to the entire Pacific Rim.[56][57]

2013 AD Solomon Islands 2013 Solomon Islands earthquake Earthquake On February 6, 2013 an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale struck the island nation of Solomon Islands. This earthquake created tsunami waves up to around 1 meter high. The tsunami also affected some other islands like New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

Highest or tallest[edit]

Main article: Megatsunami

Deadliest[edit]

The deadliest tsunami in recorded history was the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed almost 230,000 people in eleven countries. The 365 AD Mediterranean tsunami's death toll may have been much higher[citation needed].

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]