World Tsunami Awareness Day is observed on November 5 every year. Japan is credited for starting this observance, owing to its repeated, bitter tsunami experience. Over the years, it has built up significant expertise in specific 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 away from the coast.
Coastal communities are the most vulnerable when there is a tsunami risk. 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 vital in raising global awareness about practical actions, policies, and practices to reduce exposure to this 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 occurred. 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 tourism in tsunami regions put even more people in danger. That is why the world must make everything possible to reduce disaster mortality substantially.
World Tsunami Awareness Day Timeline
A Tsunami in Puerto Rico
An earthquake and tsunami kill 118 people along the western coast of Puerto Rico.
The Alaska Tsunami
It causes 110 deaths, some as far away as Crescent City, Califonia.
The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami
It reaches heights of 65 to 100 feet in Sumatra and causes more than 200,000 deaths from Indonesia to East Africa.
November 5, 2015
World Tsunami Awareness Day Is Declared
The United Nations General Assembly designates this day to promote global culture on tsunamis.
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 was a tsunami warning and you were near the area that would be affected. With the bit of knowledge you have acquired, think about what you would do to have a plan in case it happens.
How to Observe World Tsunami Awareness Day
- Tsunami is a Japanese word
- “Tsunami” is a term specific to Japan that translates as ‘a harbour wave’ (‘tsu’ = harbour + ‘nami’ = wave), reflecting Japan’s tsunami-prone history.
- Killer Waves
- Tsunamis are also known as killer waves.
- Tsunamis are more than one wave
- The first tsunami wave is usually the weakest; successive waves get bigger and stronger.
- Tsunamis have excellent 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 kilometres.
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 vital 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 an excellent opportunity to commemorate all those lives lost in tsunamis
- As already mentioned, the main consequence of a tsunami is many deaths. Therefore, people celebrate their family or friends that have died in a tsunami on this day.