Caribbean has right conditions for tsunami
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico · Scientists predict killer tsunamis could strike the Caribbean, which lacks a warning system even though its seabed is gouged by some of the world's deepest trenches, where the giant waves can be generated by tectonic activity, and its low-lying islands are heavily populated along their coastlines.
The last tsunami struck the Caribbean in 1946, before island populations skyrocketed, major construction dotted shorelines and the region developed into a prized tourist destination attracting 17 million visitors last year.
The Caribbean is a very dangerous place for tsunamis," said Uri ten Brink, a U.S. Geological Survey geologist in Woods Hole, Mass., and co-author of an article on the threat in the Journal of Geophysical Research. "The Caribbean needs a tsunami warning system."
The article was published two days before a Dec. 26 earthquake under the Indian Ocean generated a tsunami that killed at least 157,000 in 11 nations. The quake occurred along the long north-south fault in the Earth's crust where the edge of the Indian tectonic plate dives below the Burma plate, forming the Sunda Trench.
That trench is about 25,000 feet deep.
The Puerto Rico Trench -- one of the deepest in the world at 27,355 feet -- is a 560-mile-long underwater canyon and fault line running parallel to this U.S. island territory and east of the Lesser Antilles islands.
Seismic tensions in the Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cayman trenches ringing the Caribbean force tectonic plates to sink under one another as they collide, producing earthquakes, underwater landslides or tsunamis.