By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The danger of a tsunami is not restricted to the Costa Rican Pacific
coast. The Caribbean has the potential for a devastating series of tall
waves, according to the scientific literature.
The Intergovernmental Oceanic Commission of the U.N. Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization began setting up a warning system
The U.S. National Weather Service established the Caribbean Tsunami
Warning Program in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, in 2010 as a first step
of a phased approach for the establishment of a Caribbean tsunami
warning center, it said.
The danger appears to be remote, but scientists say that an earthquake,
an undersea volcano eruption or even an oceanic meteor strike could
produce tall waves that hit the shorelines.
Researchers at the University College London said
in 2001 that a tsunami wave higher than any in recorded history
could be generated by the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja in the Canary
Islands. They speculated that the western flank of the volcano could
break off and fall into the sea releasing energy that is half the
annual amount of electricity used in the United States.
They estimated that the waves would be 40 to 50 meters high when they
hit the Americas from the coast of Brazil north to the United States.
The danger of tsunamis was reinforced Thursday when Mexico’s Centro
Ecological Akumal and the University of Colorado Boulder said evidence
indicates the Yucatan Peninsula was hit by tsunami 1,500 years ago.
There are several lines of evidence for an ancient tsunami, including a
large, wedge-shaped berm about 15 feet above sea level paved with
washing machine-sized stones, said the University of Colorado in a
Set back in places more than a quarter of a mile from shore, the berm
stretches for at least 30
alternating between rocky headlands
and crescent beaches as it tracks the outline of the
coast near the plush resorts of Playa del Carmen and Cancun, said the
Information about tsunamis is critical for expats who might choose to
locate along Costa Rica's beaches.
This country is not immune. The last recorded tsunami here was actually
just south in Panamá. A summary
that in April 22, 1991, at Bocas del Toro, Panamá, people
Las Delicias sand bank normally covered by 60 to 90 centimeters of
water emerged as the sea receded less than 10 minutes after the
earthquake to the north and remained above water for five to seven
Afterwards several waves entered the bay with great force flooding 50
to 100 meters in the flat northern part of the town, the summary added.
At Carenero Island violent waves destroyed dwellings, and at San
Cristobal Island the sea receded several meters for about 45 minutes.
People went on the beach to catch trapped fish, the report added. The
report is part of a summary of 50 Caribbean earthquakes produced by
University of Colorado researchers.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake is the strongest in Costa Rican recorded
Costa Rica has enacted a law creating a maritime zone. The law covers
200 meters of the coast above mean high tide. Building is only
permitted in most cases above the 50-meter mark.
Tsunamis elsewhere have been much higher. On Jan. 12, 2010, the
earthquake in Haiti caused a
The Intergovernmental Oceanic Commission lists at least 75 tsunamis in
the Caribbean over the past 500 years with more than 3,500 deaths since
That is higher than the 579 deaths attributed to Pacific tsunamis
in the same period..
The Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program said that with explosive growth
on countries facing the Caribbean, the historic totals greatly
underestimate the potential for deaths.