A devastating Tsunami every century in the Mediterranean
Tsunamis can occur in European waters due to earthquakes caused by the African Plate drifting northwards underneath the Eurasian Plate.
Ten percent of all tsunamis worldwide occur in the Mediterranean. On average, one disastrous tsunami takes place in the Mediterranean region every century. Geological research and historical records report of many powerful tsunamis that have taken the lives of thousands over the ages. Greece and southern Italy are mostly affected.
Map of historical occurrences in the Mediterranean Sea
The greatest known Tsunamis in the Mediterranean
May 2003: After a quake near the coast of Algeria a tsunami was generated which destroyed over 100 boats on Mallorca and flooded Palmas Paseo Maritimo.
17. August 1999: A large destructive earthquake struck north-west Turkey and generated a local tsunami within the enclosed Sea of Marmara. It occurred along the Northern Anatolian Fault zone. Its epicentre was in the Gulf of Izmit. Official estimates indicated that about 17 000 people lost their lives and thousands more were injured.
9 October 1963: Tsunamis can develop not only in oceans: In Italy, near the town of Longarone, the entire northern slope of Mount Toc slid into the Vaiont dam. The water spilled over the dam and destroyed a number of villages with a wave of 140 metres. 4 000 people lost their lives.
9 July 1956: The best documented and most recent tsunamigenic earthquake in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey is the one that occurred near the south-west coast of the island of Amorgos, killing 53 people, injuring 100 and destroying hundreds of houses. The waves were particularly high on the south coast of Amorgos and on the north coast of the island of Astypalaea. At these two places, the reported heights of the tsunami were 25 and 20 m, respectively.
28 December 1908: Due to an earthquake and the ensuing tsunami, the city of Messina in Italy was almost completely destroyed. More than 75 000 people were killed.
1. November 1755: The Portuguese capital of Lisbon and its inhabitants were particularly badly hit by an earthquake that occurred in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Two thirds of the city was destroyed from resulting fires. The people seeking refuge from the flames on the banks of the Tejo River were surprised by huge flood waves produced by the earthquake. Some 60 000 people lost their lives. The waves were even observed in Ireland and on the other side of the Atlantic on the Lesser Antilles. On the coastline of the Madeira Islands the waves still had a height of 15 metres.
1672: The Cyclade islands, especially Santorini, were shaken by an earthquake The island Kos, in the east, was completely swallowed by the ensuing tsunami.
26 September 1650: A destructive earthquake was accompanied by a submarine explosion from the Colombo Volcano, which crater lies in the sea to the northeast of the island of Santorini. There was a devastating tsunami observed on the island of Ios, north of Santorini, and waves of up to 16 m were reported.
1303 AD: The quake with an estimated strength of 8 destroyed the island Rhodos and the eastern part of Crete. It caused a tsunami which reached the Egyptian coast.
365 AD: The quake of 8 to 8,5 in the year 365 caused heavy destruction on the whole of Crete. The tsunami that developed because of the quake destroyed complete coastal regions as far as Egypt and eastern Sicily. Records indicate that 50 000 people lost their lives in Alexandria.
In 1628 BC: The coasts of the entire eastern Mediterranean were submerged by flood waves of up to 60 metres high. The wave, caused by a volcanic eruption on Santorini, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, and is believed to be responsible for the destruction of the Minoan culture.