World Tsunami Awareness Day is observed on November 5 every year. Japan is credited for starting this observance, owing to its repeated, bitter tsunamis experience. Over the years, it has built up major expertise in certain areas such as tsunami early warning, public action, and building back better after a disaster to reduce future impacts. The United Nations designated this day to raise awareness about the importance of education about tsunamis to ensure that communities act decisively and without panic when tsunami warnings reach them.
History of World Tsunami Awareness Day
On December 22, 2015, the United Nations, through resolution 70/23, designated November 5 as World Tsunami Awareness Day. Although they are rare, tsunamis are one of the most devastating and dangerous natural disasters. They have no borders since they do not affect only coastal communities. They also reach and destroy other towns and communities that are located away from the coast.
Coastal communities are the most vulnerable when there is a risk of a tsunami. Even though tsunamis are hazardous, there are often natural warnings that a tsunami may be approaching. It could be strong ground shaking, volcanic eruptions, or the water receding unusually far and exposing the seafloor. International cooperation is key in trying to raise global awareness about effective actions, policies, and practices to reduce exposure to this kind of natural disaster.
About 58 tsunamis have taken more than 260,000 lives in the past 100 years, more than any other natural disaster. The highest number of deaths during those 100 years occurred in December 2004 when the Indian Ocean tsunami took place. It caused approximately 227,000 fatalities in 14 countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. Just three weeks after that tsunami, the international community came together in Kobe, Japan, where Governments adopted the 10-year Hyogo Framework for Action. This agreement was the first comprehensive global agreement on disaster risk reduction.
Rapid urbanization and growing tourism in tsunami regions are putting even more people in danger. That is why it is so important that the world makes everything possible to achieve a substantial reduction in disaster mortality.
World Tsunami Awareness Day timeline
An earthquake and tsunami kill 118 people along the western coast of Puerto Rico.
It causes 110 deaths, some as far away as Crescent City, Califonia.
It reaches heights of 65 to 100 feet in Sumatra and causes more than 200,000 deaths from Indonesia to East Africa.
The United Nations General Assembly designates this day to promote global culture on tsunamis.
World Tsunami Awareness Day FAQs
Why it is important to be aware of a tsunami?
Coastal communities need to be aware that a tsunami could arrive within minutes of a severe earthquake, so they can act fast and save lives.
Any recent tsunamis?
In August 2021, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake hit near the South Sandwich Islands, creating a tsunami that rippled around the globe
Can we prevent tsunamis?
Although tsunamis can’t be prevented, their impact can be lessened if communities understand the risks, receive timely warnings, and know how to respond.
How to Observe World Tsunami Awareness Day
Watch a movie about tsunamis
There are a lot of movies you can watch to be aware of the danger of a tsunami. Two good examples are “The Impossible” and “After the Wave.”
Attend an educational seminar about tsunamis
Many countries host events to raise awareness of tsunamis. Attend one and get educated.
Think about what to do in the event of a tsunami
Imagine what you would do if there is a tsunami warning and you are near the area that is going to be affected. With the little knowledge you have acquired, think about what you would do so that you would have a plan in case it happens.
5 Facts About Tsunamis You Probably Didn't Know
Tsunami is a Japanese word
“Tsunami” is a term specific to Japan that translates as ‘a harbor wave’ (‘tsu’ = harbor + ‘nami’ = wave), reflecting Japan’s tsunami-prone history.
Tsunamis are also known as killer waves.
Tsunamis are more than one wave
The first wave of a tsunami is usually the weakest, successive waves get bigger and stronger.
Tsunamis have great erosion potential
They can strip beaches of sand that may have taken years to accumulate and can undermine trees and other coastal vegetation.
Tsunamis are very long
A tsunami can be as long as 100 kilometers.
Why World Tsunami Awareness Day is Important
Raising awareness is necessary
People and governments must be aware of this hazardous natural disaster. International cooperation is key in trying to mitigate possible future tsunamis.
This day invites governments to cooperate
World Tsunami Awareness Day invites governments to cooperate and help the most vulnerable communities. Vulnerable communities usually cannot help themselves.
It is a good opportunity to commemorate all those lives lost in tsunamis
As already mentioned, the main consequence of a tsunami is many deaths. Therefore, people commemorate their family or friends that have died in a tsunami on this day.
World Tsunami Awareness Day dates