Within the last century, 58 tsunamis have snatched the lives of more than 260 000 people. The tsunami that occurred in 2004 in the Indian Ocean was responsible for 227 000 deaths across 14 countries, making it one of the worst-ever tsunamis.
A tsunami refers to a series of enormous waves, that are created by an underwater disturbance like earthquakes that occur below or near oceans. In Japanese, “tsu” means harbour and “nami” means wave.
Specific kinds of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, submarine landslides, coastal rock falls, or extra-terrestrial collisions can lead to the formation of a tsunami.
Tsunami waves resemble walls of water and can attack the shoreline. Tsunami waves keep coming within 5 to 60 minutes, and the first one need not be the largest. After one wave floods the land, it recedes seaward such that the floor of the ocean is revealed. The next wave then rushes ashore within minutes, carrying floating debris.
Though they are rare events, tsunamis can wreak havoc of great magnitude. The island nation of Japan has borne the brunt of many such catastrophes, which prompted the country to recommend the observance of a day to raise awareness of tsunamis.
In response to Japan’s idea, the UN General Assembly marked November 5 as “World Tsunami Awareness Day” through a resolution in December 2015. While the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction is responsible for the coordination of the commemoration of tsunamis, IOC-UNESCO works to reduce the vulnerability of coastal areas to tsunamis in the four ocean basins.
Member States of the UNO join these bodies and conduct information meetings, round tables, scientific workshops, local exercises, and press meetings and aid in the launching of publications, in order to disseminate knowledge about the causes and risks of the natural phenomenon and to share information regarding measures to be taken in the event of tsunamis.
Japan has played a major role in establishing early warning systems for tsunamis such as the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, which is equipped with seismographic and sea-level monitoring stations and sends alerts to national tsunami information centres. Japan also has a system for public action and rebuilding after a disaster to reduce future impacts.
The theme of World Tsunami Day 2022 is “Awareness About Tsunami Early-Warning Systems.”