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Papua New Guinea Tsunami, July 17, 1998
browse graphic On the evening of Friday July 17, 1998, a magnitude Ms 7.1 earthquake occurred near the northwest coast Papua New Guinea 850 km (510 miles ) northwest of Port Moresby, the capitol of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The earthquake, which occurred at 6:49 PM local time, was followed by a series of three catastrophic tsunami waves that devastated the villages of Sissano, Warupu, Arop and Malol on the north coast of PNG killing at least 2,182, injuring 1,000, and displacing more than 10,000. The villages of Arop and Warupu were entirely destroyed. Aitape and Malol were demolished or damaged. Survivorswere reportedly lifted off their feet, tossed around, and stripped of their clothes. Some victims were found impaled on mangrove stumps, andothers received deep cuts from metal debris. Several lessons were immediately obvious from this tsunami: Ground shaking and loud sounds from the sea provided tsunami warnings that were largely unheeded by area inhabitants unfamiliar with tsunamis. Spits between lagoon areas and the sea are particularly prone to damage from tsunamis and should be avoided in rebuilding after the tsunamis. Trees and mangroves apparently exacerbated rather than reduced the impact of the waves with the exception of coconut palms. Tsunami energy is not dissipated by lagoons. The most likely cause of the tsunami is a sediment slump 25 km offshore caused by the earthquake. This event is the largest known tsunami ever to have occurred in the area although the tsunami/earthquake history dates only from 1900.