PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, February 26, 2010 – Experts have revealed that while the focus was on the earthquake that devastated Haiti’s capital last month, that event actually triggered a series of tsunamis along the country’s coast that killed a few other people and destroyed some homes.
Besides contributing to the Haitian calamity, the tsunami exposed a severe lack of tsunami awareness, education, and preparedness in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, they said.
The information was revealed at the American Geophysical Union’s 2010 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Orgeon.
At that meeting, which began at the start of the week and ends today, it was revealed that waves about 10 feet high, slammed shores along the Bay of Port-au-Prince and the southern coast of the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Hermann Fritz, a civil and coastal engineer from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US, presented the findings at the meeting. He and a team from Haiti’s Quisqueya University went to look for physical evidence of the tsunamis, which had been detected by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Caribbean buoys.
Satellite images gave the team possible locations of wave impacts and when they arrived at the sites, the researchers found sand deposits, debris, tree scars, and other signs that tsunamis had hit throughout the region.
Fritz explained that the main causes of the Haitian tsunamis were “local landslides”. Landslide-generated tsunamis occur when unstable land collapses into the water following an earthquake.
A man and his two sons died in the giant wave.
“Most of the fatalities were due to the earthquake, but at least three victims we know of survived the earthquake and were hit by the wave,” Fritz said.
He said the tsunami victims were among the earthquake survivors who were watching the wave instead of trying to reach higher and safer ground.
Fritz said the action demonstrated a lack of tsunami awareness and he contended that education and informing the Haitian public about tsunami waves is crucial, even as the focus now is on rebuilding.
“It was pure luck that the misinformation did not kill more people in this case,” he said.