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Lesson 18 – Tsunami: Killer Waves

Read More About Tsunamis


Can you find where all the definitions are in the text?


A tsunami is a series of huge waves of water.

What Is a Tsunami?

A tsunami (say it like this: soo-nah-mee) is a series of huge waves of water. Most often, a tsunami is caused by an earthquake under the ocean. Some tsunamis are caused by erupting volcanoes. A tsunami can race across an ocean at up to 805 km/h. That is as fast as a jet airplane flies!

The 2011 Tsunami in Japan

On March 11, 2011, there was a major earthquake under the ocean close to Japan. The earthquake damaged buildings and left many people injured or dead. But the worst was still to come. About an hour after the earthquake, a tsunami hit Japan. In some areas, the tsunami waves were more than 40 m high.

Floating house after 2011 Japanese earthquake

Damage to Structures

The damage caused by the tsunami was much greater than damage from the earthquake. One of the first places that the tsunami reached was a city called Sendai. The rushing water swept away cars, trucks, and even airplanes. Some buildings were smashed to pieces by the force of the water. Other buildings were lifted off their foundations. Videos showed entire buildings being carried along by the water.

Japanese fire trucks line a road Friday, March 18, 2011 in Sukuiso, Japan

A Human Tragedy

People estimate that more than 15 000 people were killed by the tsunami. Thousands of people were never found. More than 25 000 people were injured. Many people lost their homes, and others lost their jobs because the places where they worked had been destroyed.

An aerial view of Oshima-Mura, Japan, 11 days after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Lending a Helping Hand

People everywhere were horrified by the effects of the tsunami. Governments, businesses, and citizens from around the world donated money to help the people of Japan after the tragedy. Many countries sent rescue teams to help find survivors.

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