Report highlights 'Seismic Gaps' in Tsunami Risk Areas

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

GENEVA, 1 November 2017 – A review of tsunami hazards over the last 400 years highlights “seismic gaps” or locations in the Pacific region where there may be complacency about the tsunami threat following long periods of seismic inactivity.

Professor Fumihiko Imamura, lead author of the academic paper*, from the International Research Institute of Disaster Science, Tohoku University, said: “We have conducted a global tsunami hazard assessment for low tsunami risk areas, based on a 400-year database which allows insight into past and potential future tsunamis based on seismic gaps which are earthquake faults active in the past but now quiet.

“Our research focussed on the Pacific and we have simulated 18 possible major events which demonstrate the tsunami risk for the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Philippines, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

“In the case of New Zealand we have demonstrated that it is potentially vulnerable to locally generated tsunamis despite past records being exclusively limited to tsunamis generated from distant locations such as Chile.

“Memories of tsunami events fade quickly but damaging tsunamis of over two metres have been seen everywhere along the Pacific Rim separately from the two most destructive tsunamis of recent times, the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 and the Great East Japan Tsunami in 2011.”

Mr. Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, said: “Professor Imamura and his colleagues have produced a timely reminder of the importance of understanding tsunami risk based on historical data and where a fault segment is capable of producing an earthquake. We overlook tsunami risk at our peril.”

*“A Global Assessment of Historical and Future Tsunami Hazards Based on Seismic Records Over the Last 400 Years and Estimated Seismic Gaps” was produced by Fumihiko Imamura, Anawat Suppasri, Panon Latcharote, Takuro Otake, Natt Leelawat, and David N. Nguyen for this year’s World Tsunami Awareness Day on November 5 and is available at

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