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Tsunami

Last update: 2022-03-25

Key facts

Tsunamis are usually associated with earthquakes and cause high levels of destruction along coastlines. Initially, high levels of drowning, trauma and injuries are typical. This is followed by WASH- and vector-related diseases.

Main health impacts

Health concern Risk factors
Trauma or injury Initial injuries from the earthquake are often complicated by areas flooded with the tsunami wave water. Additional trauma injuries from debris from the force of the tsunami wave also occur. High rates of infected wounds should be expected.
Diarrhoeal diseases Contamination of water supplies, damaged or destroyed sanitation facilities and poor hygiene practices.
Vector-borne diseases Tsunamis can result in an increase in breeding sites for mosquitos in stagnant water, and after some time an increase in transmission of vector-related disease.
Respiratory illnesses, skin diseases and vaccine-preventable diseases Significant population displacement and overcrowded, communal emergency shelters coupled with poor hygiene can lead to respiratory illnesses or skin diseases. Flood water does not increase the risk of tetanus, but emergency responders and community members may be at increased risk for wounds and injuries that become contaminated with flood waters, soil, dirt, human or animal waste. It is important that Red Cross Red Crescent responders are up to date with tetanus vaccination.
Overall adverse health outcomes Destruction and damage to health facilities and stock disrupt provision of and access not only to primary health care such as maternal and child health services, but also to essential care for chronic noncommunicable diseases (NCD).