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TSUNAMI WAVES REACHING 1 TO 3 METERS ABOVE THE TIDE LEVEL ARE
POSSIBLE ALONG SOME COASTS OF
PAPUA NEW GUINEA.
* TSUNAMI WAVES ARE FORECAST TO BE LESS THAN 0.3 METERS ABOVE
THE TIDE LEVEL FOR ALL OTHER AREAS.
* ACTUAL AMPLITUDES AT THE COAST MAY VARY FROM FORECAST
AMPLITUDES DUE TO UNCERTAINTIES IN THE FORECAST AND LOCAL
FEATURES. IN PARTICULAR MAXIMUM TSUNAMI AMPLITUDES ON ATOLLS
AND AT LOCATIONS WITH FRINGING OR BARRIER REEFS WILL LIKELY
BE MUCH SMALLER THAN THE FORECAST INDICATES.
* FOR OTHER AREAS COVERED BY THIS PRODUCT A FORECAST HAS NOT
YET BEEN COMPUTED. THE FORECAST WILL BE EXPANDED IF
NECESSARY IN SUBSEQUENT PRODUCTS.
July 17, 1998: Papua New Guinea - Following two quakes each measuring 7.0, a tsunami ravaged 30 kilometres
of northern coastline, sweeping away seven villages with a loss of more than 2,000 lives, according to official
statistics. Local sources put the death toll at between 6,000 and 8,000.
The Aitape 1998 tsunami: Reconstructing the event from interviews and field mapping.
H.L. Davies1, J.M. Davies1, R.C.B.Perembo1 and W.Y. Lus1. 1
University of Papua New Guinea
On the evening of 17 July 1998, on the Aitape coast of Papua New Guinea,a strongly felt earthquake was followed some 10-25 minutes later by a destructive tsunami. The tsunami comprised three waves, each estimated to be about 4 m high. The second of the three waves rose to a height of 10-15 m above sea level after it had crossed the shoreline and caused most damage.
Maximum wave heights and greatest damage were recorded along a 14-km sector of coast centered on Sissano Lagoon. In this sector the wave fronts moved from east to west along the coast; all structures were destroyed,
and 20-40 percent of the population was killed. Partial destruction extended 23 km to the southeast and 8 km
to the northwest, and effects of the tsunami were felt as far as 250 km to the west-northwest, beyond the
international border (Joku, this volume).
More than 1600 people are known to have died, with some estimates as high as 2200; 1000 were seriously injured,
and 10,000 survivors were displaced. Information presented in this paper was gathered in the course of a public
awareness campaign in 1998-2002, from interviews with eye-witnesses and from mapping of damage and inundation.
These sources provided new information on the height, shape and timing of the waves; on the possible escape of
petroleum and other gases from beneath the sea floor before and during the tsunami; on unusual sound effects that
preceded the waves, and lighting effects that followed; on possible deep circulation (to 250 m) of sea water in the waves. We also recorded 50-70 cm of subsidence of the coastal sand barrier in the sector of most destruction and noted the resilience and potential protective capacity of certain species of trees.
Eye-witness accounts indicate that the tsunami reached the shore at between 09:00 and 09:08 UT, which is earlier than is permitted by published models of the timing and location of the source of the tsunami.