The Straits Times had a nice piece on the tsunami risk for southern Taiwan and an explanation of the massive 1781 tsunami...
The scientists from Nanyang Technological University's Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) have now found that it was likely caused by an underwater landslide on the upper portion of the continental slope offshore from southwestern Taiwan. This was likely triggered by an earthquake.I blogged on a paper about that horrific 1781 disaster when discussing the tsunami threat to the nuke plants in Taiwan, which is real and urgent:
"A similar event today like that in the 18th century would endanger millions of lives in the coastal cities like Kaohsiung and Tainan and damage infrastructure located at the south of Taiwan," warned Assistant Professor Adam Switzer of EOS, who led the research into the 18th- century Taiwan tsunami.
The second suspected tsunami inundated Kaohsiung, southwestern Taiwan, in 1781 (Wang et al., 2006). Besides appearing in a contemporary Chinese travelogue and a Japanese historiography, it was also recorded by Dutch colonists in the 18th-century Taiwan. Flooding lasted upwards of 8 h and many villages were swept away, resulting in more than 40,000 casualties (Wang et al., 2006). Despite the severity of this event, no inland or nearshore earthquake was identiﬁed as the cause. This would be consistent with the theory that the tsunami was generated by a far-ﬁeld earthquake from off the Philippines.What the EOS finding really means is that there are two possible sources of tsunamis in southern Taiwan, a quake in the Manila trench or other nearby plate meeting, and an undersea landslide. Note that this time around any tsunami is going to be incredibly destructive, not only because of all the people who live in Pingtung and Kaohsiung, but because much of that area is under sea level thanks to groundwater withdrawal. Indeed, a truly devastating tsunami might alter the seacoast for a long period, pushing it back several kilometers and creating lagoons in low-lying areas.
REF: Another use of aboriginal folklore to document tsunamis
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