RMS releases global tsunami risk study

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Catastrophe risk management firm RMS has released a global tsunami risk study, four years after the Tohoku Earthquake. 

The study identifies more than 20 subduction zones worldwide capable of generating a giant earthquake and tsunami – similar in scale to the March 11, 2011, Tohoku, Japan event.

The new study, which uses the newly released RMS global tsunami scenario catalogue, reveals many coastal populations, industrial clusters, ports and vacation resorts at risk from this underestimated tsunami threat.

“While the Cyprus Arc subduction zone and Puerto Rico Trench, among others, are dormant, RMS analysis reveals they are capable of generating tsunami waves similar in scale to those produced along the Japan Trench in 2011, and with it unprecedented devastation,” said Dr. Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at RMS.

“Future mega-tsunamis should no longer be considered black swan events, as we now know where these events can occur. While these events have very low occurrence rates, communities and businesses on the coastlines at frontline risk of these events should assess the risk accordingly.”

A M9.0 earthquake on the Cyprus Arc could trigger a tsunami across the eastern Mediterranean Sea, impacting up to 12 countries including Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey.

“Turkey would bear the brunt of impacts from a mega-tsunami generated on the Cyprus Arc. Coastal cities in Antalya, a popular tourist destination along the Turkish Riviera, and Mersin, a southern Turkish city with the largest seaport in the country, could experience tsunami wave heights up to nine meters,” said Muir-Wood.

The RMS study also illustrated that a tsunami generated on the Puerto Rico Trench could inundate popular tourist resorts in the Dominican Republic and in the British and US Virgin Islands with waves up to nine meters. The same tsunami could also flood coastlines along western and northern Puerto Rico, including areas of San Juan.

RMS explained that the giant earthquakes and their accompanying mega-tsunamis that were generated north of Sumatra in 2004, off the coast of central Chile in 2010, and off the coast of north eastern Japan in 2011, have claimed an estimated 300,000 lives and cost more than $250 billion in economic loss. Rising coastal populations worldwide have led to a significantly increased risk from tsunami inundation.

“Many people are completely unaware they live in direct range of a potentially catastrophic tsunami,” said Muir-Wood. “As we saw four years ago with the Tohoku event, mega-tsunami events can devastate local communities and have far-reaching impacts on global supply chains.”

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