Editorial

Editorial

The late Ronald F. Greenwood, City Planner and author of the books Hurricane Resistant Construction, Town and Country Housing and Belize City Planning always believed that Belize could be hit by a tsunami, even though there are no nearby volcanoes.
He theorized that Mount Soufriere on the island of Guadalupe could erupt and cause its west wall to collapse and plunge into the sea.

The collapse of the west wall of Mount Soufriere could cause a tsunami, and since the island lies due east of Belize, tsunami waves could easily reach us even though we are more than 1400 miles away.

But Monday night’s 7.6 degree quake came from Swan Island which is much closer. Thankfully the quake did not generate a tsunami.
Tsunamis occur when an earthquake at sea or an underwater mudslide disturbs the integrity of the sea floor, which has to support millions of tons of water. If the seabed buckles and there is a situation where one side of the fissure sinks while the other side does not, there is an immediate displacement of water. Seismologists say only earthquakes measuring greater than 7.0 on the Richter scale can produce a major tsunami.
In the formation of a hurricane, warm air rises over the sea and cooler air rushes in to cause a spiral. Water temperature in the sea has to be warm enough to feed this spiral and turn it into a tropical storm.

But tsunamis require only a change in the level of the sea floor, and can occur at any time of year.

Tsunami waves can travel at a speed of up to 500 miles an hour – much faster than any hurricane, and the damage they cause is unbelievable. There are only two things that will slow a tsunami – shallow water and dry land.

On a level plain they can penetrate as deep as 10 miles inland.
In the case of Belize the Barrier Reef could perhaps act as a shield in some places, and the shallow water between the reef and the mainland could act as a shock-absorber to soften the blow.
But the Belize Barrier Reef is not expected to be of much help against the savagery of a tsunami, which is known to overwhelm even large concrete structures.

Tsunamis occur more often than most people realize. Last year there were four tsunamis worldwide, but the ones which are best remembered are like the monster that struck the City of Tohoku in Japan on March 14, 2011.

That Tsunami brought towering waves 128 feet high, destroyed 120,000 buildings and caused US$200 billion in damage.

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