World Health Organization Department of Emergency and Humanitarian Action Technical Hazard Sheet Tsunamis The Hazard



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World Health Organization

Department of Emergency and Humanitarian Action

Technical Hazard Sheet

Tsunamis


The Hazard


  1. Tsunamis are giant sea waves that are produced by submarine earthquake or slope collapse into the seabed.




  1. Tsunamis can travel thousands of miles at 300-600mph with very little loss of energy. They reach the coast with devastating impact on shoreline communities. Successive crests can arrive at intervals of every 10 to 45 minutes and wreak destruction for several hours.



Factors of Vulnerability


  1. Man made factors:

  • Settlement located in low lying coastal areas (direct impact);


Main causes of Morbidity and Mortality
Direct Impact


  1. Deaths occur principally by drowning. Injuries and trauma are few and occur from battering by debris.




  1. Short and long term mental health effects are observed.


Indirect Impact


  1. The impact on the health infrastructures and all lifeline systems is massive and can result in food shortages and the interruption of basic public health services (water, etc).


Foreseeable Needs


  1. Pending an assessment, needs can be anticipated such as: search and rescue, medical assistance, food, water and shelter and maintaining food security over the long term (crops and livestock are likely to be lost).



Don't Forget


  1. A tsunami's occurrence is unpredictable but technological innovations now make it possible to spot them and warn coastal communities at risk for an incoming tsunami.




  1. In the absence of mitigation measures such as community education, warning systems, or structural barriers such as breakwaters, Tsunamis have an important lethal impact.


Inappropriate Response


  1. Medical or paramedical personnel or teams: Do not send them ! They would arrive too late. Local and neighbouring health services are best placed to handle emergency medical care to disaster victims.




  1. Field hospitals, modular medical units: Do not send them ! This type of equipment is justified only when it meets medium-term needs. It should never be considered unless it is donated.




  1. Household medicines or prescriptions: Do not send them. These items are sometimes medically and legally inappropriate. Consult first WHO's guideline on essential drugs and the local authority of the beneficiary country.




  1. Temporary shelter such as tents: Do not send them ! As temporary resettlements in relative houses or in public edifices are by far more appropriate than creating population displacement camps.




  1. Unilateral decision on resource allocation: Do not take it without evidence of needs.


Prepared by:
Department of Emergency and Humanitarian Action

Emergency Health Intelligence and Capacity Building.

WHO/Geneva.

Please contact: eha@who.ch for further information.


Contacts for specific, related topics


For further information on:

Please contact:

Environmental Emergencies

Mr J Hueb
+(41 22) 791 3553 or Huebj@who.int

Injuries and Violence Prevention

Dr E Krug

+(41 22) 791 3535 or Kruge@who.int



Organization of Health Service Delivery

Mr O Adams

+(41 22) 791 2889 or Adamso@who.int


For further reading:


An Overview of Disaster Management, 2nd ed. Geneva, United Nations Development Programme, Disaster Management Training Programme, 1992.
Coping with Natural Disasters: The Role of Local Health Personnel and the Community. Geneva, World Health Organization, 1989.
Do’s and Don’ts After Natural Disasters. Washington, Pan American Health Organization Press Release, 1998.
Emergency Health Management after Natural Disaster. Washington, Pan American Health Organization Scientific Publication 407, 1981.
Natural Disasters: Protecting the Public’s Health. Washington, Pan American Health Organization Scientific Publication 575, 2000.
Noji E. Public Health Consequences of Disasters. New York, Oxford University Press, 1997.Noji E. Public Health Consequences of Disasters. New York, Oxford University Press, 1997.


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