Coral reefs won’t protect Guam from tsunamis

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Last Nov. 5, GHS/OCD encouraged the community to build their general understanding about how and where to evacuate before a wave strikes as part of Tsunami Awareness Day. (PNC photo by Blake Watson)

The belief that Guam is protected from tsunamis because of the island’s coral reefs is a myth, according to Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense.

GHS/OCD Tsunami Specialist Denille Calvo tells PNC that Guam is still susceptible to tsunamis although the island does not see or respond to frequent tsunami threats.

“The claim that Guam cannot be affected and are protected from tsunamis due to our surrounding coral reefs is a myth. Guam has experienced several tsunamis in previous years. A study was conducted in 2002 with findings and historic accounts of three tsunamis large enough to cause damage in 1849, 1892, and most recently in 1993. Tsunamis are commonly caused by earthquakes and can be extremely destructive in coastal areas,” Calvo said.

She added that Guam is also located in a region geologists refer to as the Ring of Fire, which is an area in the Pacific Ocean where the movements of the earth’s plates cause frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity.

In relation to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) Assessment and University of Hawaii NeoWave modeling, Calvo said out of over 3,000 energy sources in the Pacific there are at least three potential sources of big earthquakes (8.0 magnitude and above) — Southern Philippine Plate, Nankai Trough, and the Marianas Trench.

“These are some contributing factors and support that Guam has experienced and can continue to experience tsunamis. Though destructive tsunamis are rare, they are still a very real possibility for our coastal island,” Calvo warned.

Last Nov. 5, GHS/OCD encouraged the community to build their general understanding about how and where to evacuate before a wave strikes as part of Tsunami Awareness Day. By recognizing the evacuation areas across the island, Calvo said residents can build a more resilient community.

“This is why we stress the importance of tsunami awareness and preparedness. Some steps the community can take are talking with family and friends about where to evacuate before a destructive wave strikes. By recognizing the evacuation areas across the island, residents can build a more resilient community. Have discussions with family and friends about how to prepare for a tsunami, recognize the Tsunami Evacuation Route signs and Safe Assembly Area signs in your area,” Calvo said.

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