Surviving a Tsunami-Lessons from Chile, Hawaii, and Japan

B. F. Atwater, M. V. Cisternas, J. Bourgeois, W. C. Dudley, J. W. Hendley, P. H. Stauffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations

Abstract

This book contains true stories that illustrate how to survive-and how not to survive-a tsunami. It is meant for people who live, work, or play along coasts that tsunamis may strike. Such coasts surround most of the Pacific Ocean but also include other areas, such as the shores of the Caribbean, eastern Canada, and the Mediterranean. Although many people call tsunamis 'tidal waves,' they are not related to tides but are rather a series of waves, or 'wave trains,' usually caused by earthquakes. Tsunamis have also been caused by the eruption of some coastal and island volcanoes, submarine landslides, and oceanic impacts of large meteorites. Tsunami waves can become more than 30 feet high as they come into shore and can rush miles inland across low-lying areas. The stories in this book were selected from interviews with people who survived a Pacific Ocean tsunami in 1960. Many of these people, including the nurse at right, contended with the waves near their source, along the coast of Chile. Others faced the tsunami many hours later in Hawaii and Japan. Most of the interviews were done decades later in the 1980's and 1990's. The stories provide a mixed bag of lessons about tsunami survival. Some illustrate actions that reliably saved lives-heeding natural warnings, abandoning belongings, and going promptly to high ground and staying there until the tsunami is really over. Others describe taking refuge in buildings or trees or floating on debris-tactics that had mixed results and can be recommended only as desperate acts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalUS Geological Survey Circular
Issue number1187
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

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