Caribbean Islands Overlook Tsunami Risk


Caribbean 360 reported that geologists attending the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in the United States have warned that deadly tsunamis threaten the Caribbean and are an overlooked hazard in the region, noting that the tropical islands and coral reefs are strung along the junction of several major and minor tectonic plates. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

The scientists warn that more than 40 nations and territories in the region could suffer damage from a tsunami from the subduction zones. They said landslides from volcanoes falling into the sea are another hazard. In addition, the scientists cautioned that “Haitian-style strike-slip earthquakes” can trigger submarine landslides, stating that the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in 2010 in Haiti had caused a local tsunami on the south shore.

Geologists at the AGU meeting also noted that earthquakes in Europe are a “documented source of tsunamis in the Caribbean,” including ones from as far away as Portugal. For instance, geologist Brian Atwater of the US Geological Survey told the meeting that a 1755 earthquake in Portugal sent a tsunami westward across the Pacific, washing over Anegada Island in the British Virgin Islands. Geologists said historic accounts detail up to 100 possible tsunamis in the Caribbean, with 27 since the 16th century.

Christa von Hillebrandt-Andrade, manager of the US National Weather Service’s Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program, said more than 3,500 people died in tsunamis in the Caribbean between 1842 and 2010, compared with the 579 in the eastern Pacific – Hawaii, Alaska, and North and Central America – in that same time period. She said half of those deaths (1,600) came from a tsunami in 1946, associated with an earthquake in the Dominican Republic.

Scientists at the AGU meeting compared the 2010 devastating earthquake in Haiti and Sumatra, Indonesia, for their complexity and the risk of tsunamis and giant earthquakes. Scientists said the two studies unearthed historical reports that show the eastern Caribbean’s 1834 Lesser Antilles earthquake was as intense as Sumatra’s 2005 Nias earthquake, a magnitude 8.7, which killed 1,300 people in Indonesia.

[. . .] But von Hillebrandt-Andrade said the United States and its partners in the Caribbean are moving toward completing a local warning system based in Puerto Rico by 2014 and funded by the United States. She disclosed that a Caribbean tsunami information center will be hosted in Barbados.

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