Caribbean Tsunami | Not if but when…

Caribbean Tsunami

The Caribbean region is famous for sun and beaches and is visited by millions of tourists from around the world each year. Few consider tsunamis when basking on the beaches or swimming in the Caribbean blue seas however, they do occur here with frightening frequency.

Tsunamis in the Caribbean region are grouped into two categories, teletsunamis provoked by earthquakes along faults off the coast of Portugal, and tsunamis generated by earthquakes along the numerous faults of the Caribbean Plate boundaries on which most islands are situated. In fact, the risk of Tsnunamis in the Caribbean is so high, few wish to talk about the risk, especially the island nations, heavily dependent on tourism for national revenues.

With regard to teletsunamis, there are only two recorded instances of teletsunamis striking the Caribbean region, the first in 1755, and the next in 1761. Both of these tsunamis were generated by large and well acknowledged earthquakes whose epicenter was near Lisbon, Portugal. Most records that exist concerning the effects of these two tsunamis on the Caribbean Islands and region are very light. For instance the tsunami of 1755, allegedly produced a maximum run-up of 3.6 meters on Antigua, 7 meters on the island of Saba, and 4.5 meters at St. Martin; but was not acknowledged at any other Caribbean locations, many islands prefer not to report such phenomenon. The 1761 tsunami was reported only at Barbados with a wave runup of 1.2 meters.

Despite the general secrecy in the region, there are many historical reports of tsunamis generated within the Caribbean Islands but these generally are those that created significant damage or loss of life and as such impossible to cover up. The majority of these resulted from seismic movement in the northwestern region of the Caribbean, close to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These Caribbean Tsunamis generated two particularly destructive events, the Virgin Island tsunami of 1867, and the Puerto Rico tsunami of 1918 Puerto.

The major candidates for a Caribbean Tsunami are Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico. In fact, 2010´s Haiti earthquake and inundations in Santiago de Cuba a year later are said to be clear signs that a massive Caribbean Tsunami is brewing. Unfortunately, due to the low lying nature of the islands and the preference by tourists of beach front accommodations, the death toll could be similar to that seen in Asia or Japan recently. Frankly speaking, the very design of Caribbean nations and their use of beaches for major tourism venue is the Achilles heel of the Caribbean if and when a Tsunami strikes.