Tsunamis are infrequent, high-impact disasters. Since records began in 1850, tsunamis have been responsible for over 420,000 deaths and billions of dollars of damage. While big tsunamis—like the devastating event in the Indian Ocean in 2004—are very infrequent, there has been on average one tsunami disaster per year. Despite their unpredictable nature, proper pre-disaster planning and post-disaster response can help mitigate their effects.

The event that triggers the tsunami—earthquakes, volcanoes, or landslides—is followed by a violent inundation of debris-laden saltwater into often increasingly populated and ecologically sensitive coastal zones. It is impossible to predict where and when the next tsunami will occur, as the unpredictable geophysical nature of a tsunami compounds issues faced by those charged with planning for an event, as well as the cleanup ...

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