Q:

What kind of damage can a tsunami cause?

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Quick Answer

Tsunamis can cause tremendous destruction of property and loss of lives. They can completely destroy buildings and leave towns in a devastated state. Small tsunamis are non-destructive, and they happen frequently due to minor earthquakes; however, large tsunamis reach incredible heights, and they savagely attack coastlines.

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What kind of damage can a tsunami cause?
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The amount of water and energy brought by a tsunami causes destruction, especially when it hits populated areas. In addition to property damage and fatalities, tsunamis cause disease, environmental damage and psychological problems. Areas near the coast get flooded with sea water, and infrastructure, such as fresh water supplies and sewage, are damaged. This results in water contamination that can cause the spread of diseases, such as malaria. Tsunamis not only destroy lives, they also affect natural resources, animals, plants and landscapes. They kill land and sea animals, uproot trees and damage animal habitats. Waste gets mixed up with toxic substances and hazardous materials, contaminating soil and water. Moreover, victims of tsunami catastrophes often suffer traumas and psychological problems in the aftermath.

A small tsunami wave typically reaches only 30 centimeters high, but it can become a huge wave that reaches 30 meters high as it strikes the shore. The effects of a tsunami are further magnified when a lagoon, harbor or bay funnels the waves as the waves move inland. Tsunamis can rise to more than 100 feet.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    How far inland can a tsunami go?

    A:

    With wave speeds that can reach as much as 435 miles per hour, a tsunami can travel as far inland as 10 miles, depending on the slope and the shape of the shoreline that it is traveling across. Ships traveling in the deep ocean may pass over a tsunami and not even notice it because a tsunami can cause the waves to be as little as 2 feet high where the water is very deep.

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  • Q:

    What does a tsunami sound like?

    A:

    Witnesses to tsunamis report they make a roaring sound as they approach, similar to the sound of a freight train or a jet airplane. Tsunamis are triggered by underwater earthquakes, which are reported to make similar sounds. A hydrophone captured the sound of the 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 and caused a tsunami across the Pacific Ocean, which was like the sound of a rocket taking off.

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  • Q:

    Can we prevent a tsunami?

    A:

    A tsunami is a natural geohazard that is almost impossible to prevent from forming or occurring. Though it cannot be prevented, damage from a tsunami can be reduced through sophisticated early warning systems, effective response and community preparedness. The United Nations Environment Program also suggests that tsunamis cause less damage in areas where there are natural tsunami barriers, such as coastal vegetation, coral reefs and mangroves.

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  • Q:

    How do you prepare for a tsunami?

    A:

    Before a tsunami is imminent, people living in areas where tsunamis are possible should construct tsunami emergency kits and organize a family communications plan. When a tsunami watch is issued, people should tune into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's weather service, ensure the emergency kit is well stocked, locate family members and prepare to evacuate. When a tsunami warning is issued, everyone should evacuate to higher ground.

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