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CDEMA Tsunami Preparedness - Caribbean History
Caribbean History

Historical records suggest that the recurrence rate for tsunamis in the Caribbean is approximately:

  • one destructive tsunami per century generated by earthquakes occurring within the region;

  • one destructive tsunami per 200 years generated by earthquakes occurring outside of the region.

Source of Data: Seismic Research Centre, 2010

A Short History of Tsunamis in the Caribbean

1692: The Port Royal Tsunami, Jamaica
On 7 June 1692, a devastating earthquake hit the town of Port Royal, near Kingston in Jamaica.

The sand-spit (a long point of land which projects into a body of water) on which the town was built started to become liquid and flow out into Kingston Harbour.  A tsunami occurred which further eroded the sand, sinking the town below water. The tsunami is reported to have lifted a large English sailing vessel from the harbour on one side of the narrow piece of land and carried it over the two-storey buildings in the town, depositing it in the sea on the other side.

It is told that some frantic residents managed to grab the ship’s cables and rigging and climb aboard to safety as it swept by. About 3,000 people were killed either by the earthquake or by the tsunami – half of the town’s population.

Source: Tsunami Teacher, IOC, UNESCO (2006)

2010: Haitian Earthquake and Tsunami
On January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake. This quake triggered a tsunami that affected localised shores shortly thereafter.

Reports suggest that the waves averaged about ten feet (three meters) high and affected shores along the Bay of Port-au-Prince and the southern coast of the island of Hispaniola. At least one wave hit the shore as far as 62 miles (100 kilometres) away from the earthquake's epicentre, near Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Three people were killed and several coastal homes were reportedly swept out to sea.

Learn more about earthquakes and tsunamis in the Caribbean:

In Petit Paradis, earthquake then tsunami (CNN)

Lessons to be learned from Haiti's tsunami (BBC)

Deadly Tsunami Swarm Hit Haiti After Quake, Experts Say (National Geographic)

For more information read more on the graphical history of tsunamis in the Caribbean by downloading the “Tsunami Smart Caribbean Poster”
Tsunami Timeline Poster (549.7 KB)


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