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Countries most affected by tsunamis

  • Countries most affected by tsunamis

    Tsunamis are some of nature’s most devastating phenomenons. According to the National Ocean Service, these geographic events are defined as a series of waves that occur as the result of undersea earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. As these waves travel from the open ocean toward coastal land, they grow taller and taller. This results in massive walls of water that have the potential to wipe out structures along the coast and even kill people and animals unfortunate enough to reside within reach of these powerful waves.

    Unsurprisingly, many of the countries that have been most affected by tsunamis are islands, which have more vulnerable coastlines than landlocked countries. The presence of volcanos near a coast also increases the risk of tsunamis, as was the case with the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, which devastated parts of Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Those countries are located in the “Ring of Fire”—a part of the Pacific Ocean that experiences a high number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

    Other countries at risk for tsunamis may be surprising. Alaska was the site of one of the worst tsunamis on record, while the United Kingdom also faces significant risk, according to scientists. Discoveries of events that occurred before recorded history illuminate the risks and challenges many modern communities face in anticipating tsunamis. Those events underscore the need for systems to protect citizens, particularly along the coasts. Such warning systems can include text alerts, media coverage, and warning sirens, but even the most robust systems cannot accurately measure them because many tsunamis strike land mere minutes after the earthquakes that trigger them.

    To uncover the countries most affected by tsunamis, Stacker consulted the NOAA's Global Historical Tsunami Database and ranked each country by the total number of tsunamis in recorded history, with data up to date as of December 2019. Click through for a look at the countries most impacted by tsunamis.

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  • #24. Tonga (tie)

    - Recorded tsunamis: 19

    The most recent tsunami in Tonga occurred in 2009 in the Samoa Islands and was so powerful that it reached American Samoa. A highly unusual earthquake occurred more than 62 meters from the nearest tectonic plate, triggering gigantic waves that ultimately killed 192 people.

    [Pictured: Aerial photo taken of Niuatoputapu, Hihifo, Tongo, after a tsunami generated by an earthquake in nearby Samoa.]

  • #24. Indian Ocean (tie)

    - Recorded tsunamis: 19

    The 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean was the most devastating in recorded history, killing over 230,000 people. The cause was one of the most seismic earthquakes ever recorded—a staggering 9.1 on the Richter scale. The resulting 100-foot waves made landfall in Indonesia within minutes, before continuing on to cause destruction in Thailand and other nearby countries.

    [Pictured: A fishing ship lies on a road near Nagapattinam, India after a tsunami hit the region.]

  • #23. United Kingdom

    - Recorded tsunamis: 22

    Although the United Kingdom doesn’t seem like an obvious candidate for tsunamis, its geographic location makes it far more susceptible than many of its citizens recognize, scientists warn. Two recent discoveries of tsunamis that happened several thousand years ago have put geologists and the public on edge that devastating waves might not be as unlikely as previously thought.

    [Pictured: Waves crash over Newhaven Lighthouse on the south coast of England on Oct. 21, 2017 as Storm Brian hits the country. ]

  • #22. United States Territories

    - Recorded tsunamis: 23

    Earthquakes and landslides have been responsible the most devastating tsunamis in the United States Territories. In 1918, a tsunami killed over 100 people on the island of Puerto Rico, causing millions of dollars of damage, and sweeping away many homes.

    [Pictured: Winds lash the coastal city of Fajardo, Puerto Rico.]

  • #21. Taiwan

    - Recorded tsunamis: 25

    Experts are warning that Taiwan is likely to experience a massive tsunami in the next 100 years. The nearby Manila Trench is entering a new earthquake cycle, which scientists say could lead to increased seismic activity.

    [Pictured: A flag warning about rough seas is pictured next to a beach in Suao, Yilan County, as Typhoon Lekima approaches off the shores of eastern Taiwan on Aug. 8, 2019.]

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  • #20. Canada

    - Recorded tsunamis: 26

    One of Canada’s most devastating tsunamis was man-made. In 1917, the French munitions ship Mont Blanc exploded in Halifax harbor, triggering a tsunami. The explosion and resulting wave killed 1,900 people and wounded 9,000.

    [Pictured: A view across the devastation of Halifax two days after the explosion.]

  • #18. Venezuela (tie)

    - Recorded tsunamis: 27

    Venezuela’s propensity for tsunamis is partly due to frequent earthquakes near its coast. An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 struck the country in 2018, triggering a tsunami alert for all coastal areas in the country within a 300-km radius of the quake’s epicenter.

    [Pictured: People cross a highway in Caracas flooded due to a strong rain caused by a tropical storm in the Venezuelan capital.]

  • #18. Norway (tie)

    - Recorded tsunamis: 27

    One reason Norway is at increased risk for tsunamis is because of landslides from deteriorating mountains. In 1934, a crack in a mountain above the village of Tafjord unleashed a tsunami that killed 23 people.

    [Pictured: A giant wave over the Atlantic Road in Averøy, Norway as the storm "Berit" struck the Norwegian coast.]

  • #17. Portugal

    - Recorded tsunamis: 34

    One of the most devastating tsunamis in history occurred in Portugal in 1755. The tsunami originated from a massive earthquake in the Atlantic Ocean, 120 miles from the Portuguese coast. Fifteen-foot cracks tore through the center of Lisbon, reducing many of the city’s enormous cathedrals—packed with people at prayer—to rubble.

    [Pictured: Waves pound the coastline at Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal.]

  • #15. Vanuatu (tie)

    - Recorded tsunamis: 36

    The earthquake-prone South Pacific is responsible for some of Vanuatu’s tsunamis. In late 2017, two quakes hit near the island in a month, triggering small tsunami waves along the coast.

    [Pictured: A young boy plays with a ball as his mother searches through the ruins of their family home on March 16, 2015 in Port Vila, Vanuatu.]

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