Milford Primary School

Operation Phoenix North Shore

Tsunamis, what they are and how to keep ourselves safe.

Here are some of our questions and answers about tsunamis.

What does the word tsunami mean?

Tsunami is a Japanese word represented by two characters: tsu and nami. Tsu means harbour and nami means wave.

How much of Sri Lanka was affected by the tsunami?

The damage stretched from Jaffna in the North right down to the entire Eastern and Southern Coast and covered the west coast as far North as Colombo.It covered 3/4 of the coastline.

How many people were killed by the tsunami in Sri Lanka?

In January 2005, Sri Lankan authorities reported that 30,196 people had died.

Had they had a big tsunami in Sri Lanka before?

It is said that in ancient times there was a big tsunami. The king who ruled Sri Lanka at the time thought it was because the gods were angry with him so he put his daughter on a raft and floated her out to sea as a sacrifice. Luckily she did not drown but managed to land in another port.

Can you tell if a tsunami is on the way?

You may well see the water receding, as if the tide has pulled out in a hurry, but this does not always happen.The sea might also make a rumbling kind of noise.

What causes a tsunami?

A tsunami is usually caused by earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions and landslips can also cause tsunamis.

What does a tsunami look like?

It looks like a big wave coming towards you. There will usually be more than one wave.

How long does a tsunami last for?

It can last for several hours.

Do tsunamis travel quickly or slowly?

A tsunami wave can move very quickly. It can go as fast as a jumbo jet.

Do tsunamis affect underwater animals?

If animals such as dolphins and whales are out at sea they will not be affected. But fish who are close to the shore can be thrown out of the water onto the beach.

Do many people usually die?

In the Boxing Day tsunami many people died, but if people are well prepared hopefully there would not be so many casualties.

How high has the biggest wave been?

A big wave can be as great as 10 metres, even 30 metres in some cases, and it can move inland for several hundred metres.

Where did the biggest tsunami happen?

The Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 was the biggest tsunami in our living history.

When does a tsunami end?

When the big waves stop coming and the sea becomes calm again. This can take several hours.

What will happen if a tsunami strikes?

If it is a small tsunami there may not be much damage. But the force of some tsunamis is enormous. Large rocks weighing several tonnes along with boats and other debris can be moved inland for hundreds of metres by the big tsunami waves. Homes, and other buildings and trees which are close to the beach can be destroyed. And all this material can be swept along with great force and kill or injure people.

Could a tsunami happen in New Zealand?

Yes, New Zealand is an island and a tsunami could hit any part of our coastline.

If there is a tsunami, could it destroy the North Shore?

Even if there was a big tsunami it would not destroy all of the North Shore, only those parts of it which are close to the beach would be affected.

What’s the best way to protect yourself from a tsunami?

Know about tsunamis and be prepared. If you are on or near the beach, move quickly to higher ground. If you are further away, stay away from the beach. Each household should also have an emergency kit.

How do you know if a tsunami has finished?

Listen to your radio. The Civil Defence Department will keep you informed, tell you what to do, and tell you when they think the tsunami is over.

How can you survive if you are very near the tsunami? Could you still survive?

Yes many people can survive by moving quickly away to higher ground, or if there is no higher ground by going inland, at least 1.5 kilometres if possible.

What kind of high ground do you have to go to when there is a tsunami?

Go to a high hill. Mount Victoria would be a good place to go for people who live in Devonport.

What should families do to be prepared for a tsunami?

They should learn, beforehand, what to do if there is a tsunami and to make their own emergency plan. Each family should have an emergency kit ready at all times.

Does the North Shore have an emergency warning system in place?

They are putting a voluntary mass telephone warning system in place for people who live close to the beach. If a tsunami is approaching their phone will ring and warn them to move to a safe place.

What's the most important thing to know about tsunamis?

They can be very dangerous. So be prepared. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Here are Two Design for a Tsuanmi Beach Board. We think every beach should have one!