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What types of tsunamis exist?

Dependent on the distance of the tsunami from its source, it may be classified as a:

  • Local tsunami:

A local tsunami is one that originates from within about 100 km or less than 1 hour tsunami travel time from the impacted coastline. Local tsunamis can result in a significant number of casualties since authorities have little time to warn/evacuate the population. 

  • Regional tsunami:

A regional tsunami is one that is capable of destruction in a particular geographical region, generally within 1,000 km from its source. Regional tsunamis can arrive to affected coastlines within 1-3 hours of being generated, however, as with local tsunamis, due to the limited warning time they can still prove very destructive and deadly.

  • Tele-tsunami/Ocean-wide tsunami/Distant tsunami:

A tsunami originating from a source, generally more than 1,000 km or more than 3 hours tsunami travel time from the impacted coastline is called an ocean-wide or distant or tele-tsunami.  These tsunamis are less frequent, but more hazardous than regional tsunamis, as they usually start as a local tsunami that causes extensive destruction to a shoreline near the source, and the waves continue to travel across an entire ocean basin with sufficient energy to cause additional casualties and destruction on shores more than a 1,000 km from the source. These tsunamis have the ability to cause widespread destruction, not only in the immediate region but across an entire ocean.  All ocean-wide tsunamis have been generated by major earthquakes.

What is a Tsunami?

A tsunami (tsoo-NAH-mee) is a series of enormous waves caused by a major disturbance of a body of water.  This disturbance can be caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, submarine landslides, coastal rock falls or a large asteroid impacting the ocean. Tsunamis are also known as seismic sea waves and are mistakenly called “tidal waves”.

What can I do to prepare myself in case a tsunami comes?


In addition to tsunami alert messages issued by warning centres and national authorities, tsunamis may be accompanied by natural warning signs and recognizing any of these signs could save your life!


Big local earthquakes can cause tsunamis

FEEL the ground shaking severely or for a long time?


Tsunamis may be preceded by a rapid fall in sea level which exposes reefs, rocks, and fishes on the bottom of the sea as the ocean recedes

Tsunamis often come ashore as a wall of water, and quickly flood inland.

SEE an unusual disappearance of water, or an oncoming wall of water?

HEARTsunamiSmartSign 01

Abnormal ocean activity, a wall of water, and approaching tsunami create a loud "roaring" sound similar to that of a train or jet aircraft

HEAR the roar?


Don’t wait for official evacuation orders as there may not be enough time

Immediately leave low-lying coastal areas

Move inland to higher ground

RUN if you see a tsunami coming!

  • Obey the instructions from local authorities.


 Source: CDEMA, 2010

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