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New study warns of significant tsunami risk in Caribbean

Thursday, March 12, 2015

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – The global catastrophe risk management firm, RMS, has released a global tsunami risk study that identifies more than 20 subduction zones worldwide, including some in the Caribbean, capable of generating a giant earthquake and tsunami.

The new study has revealed that many coastal populations, industrial clusters, ports and vacation resorts are at risk from this underestimated tsunami threat.

To conduct the study, RMS said it examined all subduction zones worldwide capable of producing magnitude 9.0 earthquakes, including those considered dormant or inactive.

“While the Cyprus Arc subduction zone and Puerto Rico Trench, among others, are dormant, RMS analysis reveals they are capable of generating tsunami waves similar in scale to those produced along the Japan Trench in 2011, and with it unprecedented devastation,” said Dr Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at RMS.

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“Future mega-tsunamis should no longer be considered black swan events, as we now know where these events can occur,” he added. “While these events have very low occurrence rates, communities and businesses on the coastlines at frontline risk of these events should assess the risk accordingly.”

The study shows a tsunami generated on the Puerto Rico Trench could inundate popular tourist resorts in the Dominican Republic and in the British and US Virgin Islands with waves up to nine meters.

The same tsunami could also flood coastlines along western and northern Puerto Rico, including areas of San Juan.

 “Many people are completely unaware they live in direct range of a potentially catastrophic tsunami,” said Muir-Wood. “As we saw four years ago with the Tohoku event, (in Japan) mega-tsunami events can devastate local communities and have far-reaching impacts on global supply chains.”

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