21st Century's Deadliest Tsunamis

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March 14, 2011 6:52 PM EST

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions, landslides and other mass movements, meteorite ocean impacts or similar impact events, and other disturbances above or below water all can generate killer waves. Here is a list of the deadliest tsunamis that struck the world in the 21st century:

2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which had a moment magnitude of 9.1–9.3,triggered a series of killer waves on December 26, 2004. The lethal tsunamis killed approximately 230,210 people (including 168,000 in Indonesia alone), making it the deadliest tsunami as well as one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.

The earthquake that generated the great Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 is estimated to have released the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The tsunami killed people over an area ranging from the immediate vicinity of the quake in Indonesia, Thailand, and the north-western coast of Malaysia, to thousands of kilometres away in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and even as far away as Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania in eastern Africa.

In light of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, UNESCO and other world bodies have called for an international tsunami monitoring system.

2006 Java Island Tsunami

The 7.7 magnitude earthquake of 17 July 2006 generated a destructive local tsunami that impacted about 129 miles of the southern coast of the Island of Java. Tsunami waves of up to 5 meters in height swept through fishing villages and resorts on Indonesia's Java Island destroying houses, restaurants, hotels, boats, and spreading devastation half a km inland. The death toll rose to more than 600, with hundreds more missing. More than 54,000 people were displaced.

2011 Sendai Tsunami

On March 11, 2011, off the Pacific coast of Japan, a 8.9 magnitude earthquake produced a tsunami 33 feet (10 m) high along Japan's northeastern coast. The earthquake caused an explosion and partial nuclear meltdown at The Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

The Japanese National Police Agency has officially confirmed 1,647 deaths, 1,990 injuries, and 1,720 people missing across sixteen prefectures, but at least 10,000 people are thought to be dead and thousands are unaccounted for.

Friday's earthquake triggered tsunami warnings not only for Japan but for 50 others, including the U.S. The U.S. alert affects the west coast of the continental United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.

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