Tsunamis can be generated by any movement of water in oceans or lakes. The movement of tectonic plates creates a tsunami under the ocean floor during an earthquake. But Tsunamis can also be caused by landslides, volcanic eruptions, or glacier carving. Tsunamis are one of the most disastrous events caused by Nature. Here is the list of the top 10 worst tsunamis ever recorded.
10. Ise Bay Japan Tsunami
One of the worst tsunamis in history to ever hit Japan occurred in Ise Bay. It killed thousands of people in the region and was one of the most deadly. The underlying cause of the Tsunami was the tectonic movement of the Japanese island. The Eurasian and North American plates moved apart, and the NA plate moved up. Those movements caused a snapback of the ocean plates and the Tsunami.
The earthquake also caused fires to spread across the area, killing many people. However, the Tsunami arrived when the massive fires were out. Over thirty-foot waves crashed into the Izu Islands within minutes, killing over 150 people. Despite the Tsunami’s devastating effects, the region has since made many efforts to increase its safety and protect itself from future disasters.
A magnitude 8.2 earthquake caused the Tsunami that hit Ise Bay. The waves swept over the coastline of Nagahana, Japan, and caused vast amounts of damage. Most tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean in the Ring of Fire region, where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions often occur. Despite the massive size of these tsunamis, it was not the most destructive Tsunami in history.
A powerful earthquake struck Honshu on January 18, 1586, and a tsunami followed. This wave traveled over eighty kilometers and was 10 meters high. It killed over two thousand people and damaged more than ten thousand houses. The Tsunami also damaged the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing a massive atomic crisis.
9. Ryuku Islands Japan Tsunami
A Tsunami earthquake near the Ryukyu Trench caused the 1771 Ryuku Islands Japan Tsunami. This earthquake caused a major tsunami that caused massive destruction in the area. In addition to the catastrophic collapse, this event destroyed buildings and homes.
The Tsunami reached the shores of the Okinawa and Ryukyu Islands. It was so powerful that the waves were over 10 meters high and displaced water from the ocean to great depths. Over one thousand people died in the disaster. In addition, more than a thousand houses were damaged. Thousands of people were left homeless.
The 1771 tsunami occurred in the southwestern part of the Ryukyu Arc. The region is located on an obliquely subducting plate boundary, but no interplate coupling exists. This location is also characterized by tsunami boulders, which indicate that there may be a 500 to 1000-year recurrence interval. Several plausible tsunami source models have been proposed for this area, including active faulting plus landslide. However, these hypotheses are still controversial due to inconsistencies in geophysical data.
The 1771 Meiwa Tsunami was one of the worst tsunamis in history to hit Japan, with the run-up heights reaching up to 30 meters in specific locations on the Miyako-Yaeyama Islands. Numerous historical lines of evidence point to a tsunami caused by a submarine landslide or an interplate earthquake.
8. The Northern Chile Tsunami
The Northern Chile Tsunami of August 13, 1868, was a devastating natural disaster. It struck the northern part of Chile on the coast at 16:45, killing thousands. Two separate earthquakes caused it. Aftershocks were felt days, weeks, and even months later. Tsunamis are waves triggered by large earthquakes that push large amounts of water to the surface. The water then becomes turbulent, with large waves sweeping across the coast.
The earthquake caused severe damage to the city of Arica. Ships anchored in the harbor were buried under the water for 22 minutes. Two waves smashed the port’s pier and caused widespread destruction in the town. The First Church of Arica and the Church of San Marcos were destroyed in the Tsunami.
The Tsunami was caused by a large earthquake in the South American region of Chile on August 13. Thousands of people died, including New Zealanders. The Chatham Islands were the worst affected locations in New Zealand, and one Maori village was wiped out. The waves reached over six meters high, destroying buildings and infrastructure. The economy of the affected areas was significantly impacted.
7. Sanriku Japan Tsunami
On June 15, 1896, a massive tsunami struck Sanriku, Japan. The Tsunami struck a coastline facing the Pacific Ocean. Its waves’ wavelengths shortened as they approached the shore, increasing their destructive power. The Tsunami killed 30,000 people in the area.
The Sanriku tsunami resulted from a significant earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0. It struck the northeastern coast of Japan and extensively inundated a 400 km2 coastal area. The Tsunami also induced co-seismic subsidence and eastward movement of the beach. The Sanriku coast is a series of narrow bays, so the tsunami amplitude was extremely high. The Tsunami destroyed coastal structures and significantly damaged the coastal topography.
A weak earthquake occurred just 35 minutes before the Tsunami hit the Sanriku coast. As a result, the tsunami waves were powerful, reaching 38.2 meters in height. This massive Tsunami also resulted in exceptionally high tides, which helped generate a large amount of water.
Throughout history, Sanriku has been struck by tsunamis. The 1896 Sanriku Tsunami caused a massive catch of tunas and sardines. The Sanriku earthquake struck during the Shinto festival of the returning soldiers. The tsunami wave’s epicenter was near a reverse fault near the Japan Trench, which caused a slight impact on the shore. The wave hit the coast for about five minutes and left behind a long trail of destruction and loss of life.
6. The Nankaido Japan Tsunami
The Nankaido Japan Tsunami of October 28, 1707, is one of the most significant worst tsunamis in the history of Japan. It ruptured all segments of the Nankai megathrust simultaneously, with a magnitude of 8.6 or 8.7. This quake triggered the last eruption of Mount Fuji, which was only 49 days later. Scientists are fascinated by the events surrounding this quake, and the historical evidence that comes with it is invaluable.
The Tsunami measured 25 meters high and killed more than 30,000 people. It struck the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido around three or four in the afternoon. It extended several kilometers up the Nankai Trough to the coastal town of Kochi. Since then, more than ten deadly tsunamis have struck Nankaido, and the most deadly ones are those with a magnitude of 7.9 to 8.7.
The Nankaido Japan Tsunami, which hit the island of Hokkaido on October 28, 1707, was the most severe earthquake in Japan’s history. The Hokkaido Tsunami, which affected the entire island of Hokkaido, resulted from two earthquakes so close that it was not easy to distinguish one from the other.
The earthquake caused a giant tsunami, which traveled in a narrow channel connecting the sea and a lake. This Tsunami deposited a large amount of sea sand into the lake.
5. Great East Japan Tsunami
The Great East Japan Tsunami of September 20, 1498, struck off the coast of Japan. It measured a magnitude of 8.6 and generated a giant tsunami. Although the exact number of deaths was never determined, it is estimated that between 26,000 and 31,000 people were killed in the disaster. It is believed that the earthquake was caused by an eruption from the Unzen volcano in the nearby town of Nagasaki, which triggered the eruption and the subsequent Tsunami.
The Tsunami caused massive damage to many of the islands in the region. Still, its main effect was on Ishigaki and Miyakojima islands. The Tsunami was so giant that Japanese measurement systems needed clarification. The actual height of the waves was estimated to be about 11 to 12 meters. In total, more than 2,000 houses were destroyed.
The maximum tsunami wave height was ten meters on the Kumano coast and as high as five meters at several locations on the Mie and Wakayama coastlines. Tsunami waves were reported at several other places in Japan, including Hawaii and the Izu Peninsula.
Despite the Tsunami’s size, the effects were significant and lasted up to three days. Two major tsunamis accompanied the earthquake, and the resulting Tsunami wiped out the port of Arica and destroyed buildings and homes. Some 25,000 people were killed in the disaster. The Ryukyu Islands were also damaged, and the waves were as high as 11 to fifteen meters.
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4. Krakatau Indonesia Tsunami
The Krakatau Indonesia Tsunami of August 27, 1888, destroyed the island’s northwestern two-thirds, ejecting a mass of molten rock and ash up to 80 kilometers into the atmosphere. The explosion’s roar was so loud that it tore off roofs and doors off hinges in Batavia. Seawater then poured into the crater-like area, creating a tsunami that swept the region.
The magnitude of the Tsunami was high enough to cause small waves to reach the coasts of Japan and Shikoku-Satsuma, and Australia’s coastline was affected by the tidal waves. The Tsunami’s impact was also felt in New Zealand, with waves reaching 0.2 meters in many areas. Some locations reported oscillations for more than 24 hours. However, many affected places, such as Mangonui, were outside the Tsunami’s path.
The Krakatoa eruption was responsible for the devastating Tsunami that caused more than 36,000 deaths. The Tsunami was so powerful that it was even felt off the coast of France. Hundreds of cities and villages were devastated by the tidal waves as they swept away people and land.
3. Portugal Tsunami
Almost a century ago, on November 1, 1755, Portugal suffered a devastating earthquake. Lisbon, the country’s capital, was devastated. The tremors were so powerful that buildings were toppled across the city. Although the Lisbon earthquake was only 8.0 on a modern scale, it was compelling. It shook buildings for ten minutes and was felt as far away as Morocco.
The earthquake changed the political landscape in Portugal. The king’s favorite prime minister, an upstart son of a country squire, was popular among the people. However, the aristocracy viewed him as a dangerous upstart who had no place in government. The earthquake also helped the young Sebastiao de Melo gain the Marquis of Pombal title, effectively ending the power of old aristocratic factions. In turn, resentment towards King Joseph I grew.
The Lisbon earthquake had a moment magnitude of 8.5-9. The Lisbon earthquake’s Tsunami was relatively small compared to the 1755 quake. The quake’s epicenter was in a region near the Azores-Gibraltar fault zone. This distance meant that the Tsunami’s travel time was 40 minutes.
The Lisbon earthquake produced a tsunami of twenty-six to sixty-five feet. The waves spread more than three hundred miles, reaching the islands of Martinique and Algiers. They caused flooding, fires, and other damage.
2. North Pacific Coast of Japan Tsunami
A tremendous tsunami hit the North Pacific Coast of Japan on March 11, 2011. The Tohoku tsunami’s amplitude peaked at 2.47 meters (8 feet) during the first two hours. Despite the Tsunami’s high amplitude, low tide significantly reduced the amount of flooding on land. However, the harbor experienced dangerous surges and currents that lasted more than 24 hours. The port was severely damaged, losing dozens of boats and nearly $28 million.
Residents of the affected areas were largely unaware that the Tsunami was coming. While the JMA initially issued warnings for up to 3 meters, later adjusting the size to six meters, there were also warnings for ten meters or over. Fortunately, some residents in affected communities could hide behind a 10-m seawall. However, some communities had no speakers or radio systems to warn them of an impending tsunami.
The slip distribution indicates a large slip extending about 40 m along the trench axis. The slip pattern resembled the Sanriku “tsunami” earthquake in 1896.
Despite the massive Tsunami, the water quality of the Namaisawa River has recovered almost entirely. Within 2.5 years after the disaster, the water quality returned to normal, and sticklebacks began nesting in the river’s middle reaches.
1. Sumatra Indonesia Tsunami
The Sumatra Indonesia Tsunami of December 26, 2004, resulted from a major earthquake that occurred 18 miles (30 kilometers) under the ocean’s surface. A reverse fault caused the quake along the Sunda Trench, where the Indian plate subducts beneath the Burma plate. The channel, about the size of California, ruptured nearly 800 miles (1300 km). The event was felt throughout many countries, including India, Indonesia, and China, and caused widespread destruction in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The earthquake caused a tsunami of devastating proportions. The magnitude of the Tsunami was 9.3, and the entire Indian Ocean was affected. The volume of this quake was the largest since the Chile earthquake of 1960. The earthquake’s epicenter was situated at a depth of 30 km, and the quake was centered 160 km east of Sumatra.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued tsunami bulletins shortly after the quake. Two were published about 45 minutes apart. The first bulletin gave the magnitude as less than 9.5. It did not mention the possibility of a tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The Tsunami had already hit the Sumatra and Nicobar Islands when the second bulletin was issued.
Hope you like to know the Top 10 worst Tsunamis in history ever recorded, do comment if you have ever been to a Tsunami experience.
Note: The above list is subject to change in the future. We will update it accordingly.