A magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck the Pacific Ocean southeast of New Caledonia on Friday, triggering a tsunami warning for coasts within 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of the epicenter, and to nearby nations including Vanuatu and Kiribati.
The United States Tsunami Warning Center lifted the alert after about three hours, but some countries like Australia and New Zealand still advised people to avoid coastal areas and expect strong currents and surges.
Tsunamis are powerful waves caused by large earthquakes or volcanic eruptions that displace a large amount of water. They can travel at speeds of up to 800 kilometers (500 miles) per hour and reach heights of tens of meters (feet) when they hit the shore.
Tsunamis can cause widespread damage, flooding, injuries and deaths. They can also affect communication, transportation, electricity and water supply systems.
So how can you stay safe if you live in or visit an area that is prone to tsunamis? Here are some tips to help you prepare and protect yourself before, during and after a tsunami.
Before a tsunami
- Know the signs of a tsunami. If you feel a strong earthquake, see the water recede from the shore, hear a loud roar from the ocean, or receive an official warning, don’t wait. Move to higher ground or inland as soon as possible.
- Have an emergency kit ready. Include items like water, food, flashlight, radio, batteries, first aid kit, medications, cash, documents and contact information.
- Have an evacuation plan. Know where to go and how to get there. Follow the evacuation routes marked by signs or maps. Avoid bridges, tunnels and low-lying areas.
- Stay informed. Listen to local radio or TV stations or check online sources for updates and instructions from authorities.
During a tsunami
- Stay calm and act quickly. Don’t waste time gathering belongings or taking pictures. Grab your emergency kit and head to your designated safe location.
- Don’t go near the water. Tsunamis can come in multiple waves with intervals of minutes or hours. The first wave may not be the largest or the most dangerous. Stay away from the coast until you hear an official all-clear signal.
- Don’t enter damaged buildings or debris. There may be hidden hazards like gas leaks, electric shocks, fires or sharp objects.
- Help others if you can. Assist people who are injured or trapped. Call for emergency services if you have access to a phone.
After a tsunami
- Stay alert for aftershocks. They can trigger more tsunamis or cause buildings to collapse.
- Follow official advice. Listen to local authorities for information on safety, health and recovery. Follow their instructions on when and how to return to your home or workplace.
- Clean up safely. Wear protective clothing and gloves when handling debris or contaminated materials. Dispose of them properly according to local regulations.
- Seek support. Tsunamis can be traumatic events that affect your physical and mental well-being. Talk to your family, friends or professionals if you need help coping with stress or grief.
Tsunamis are rare but devastating natural disasters that can affect anyone living in or visiting coastal areas. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of surviving and recovering from a tsunami.
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