In 1960, a sub-ocean earthquake struck near Chile without warning. 15 hours later, there were projections that tsunamis were in the process of crossing the Pacific Ocean, and were about to hit numerous island nations to the north. The tsunami hit Hilo, Hawaii with enormous impact and shook the entire island. It tore down 2 tonnes of boulders from a sea wall, and bent safety railings and parking metres till they touched the ground. Such is only a sample of the enormous amount of damage that a severe tsunami can cause. In total, 61 lives were claimed, and millions of dollars worth of damage had been done. This graphic example of the result of not being prepared for a tsunami was definitely a lesson well learnt. Since then, complicated tsunami evacuation plans and warning sirens have been developed so that a repeat of this would not ever happen in future. Below is a first-hand account of a scientist who was present at the scene. At this part of the extract, he has already seen two large waves which tower above normal sea level by two metres. The water has only just begun retreating.
“At first there was only a dull rumble, like a distant train coming from the darkness. By 1.02 am all we could hear was the loudening roar as it came closer through the night. Our eye searched for the source of the noise…a pale wall of tumbling water was caught in the dim light.
By 1.04 am a 6 m vertical front of in-rushing water churned past our lookout..........Dull grating sounds were heard as buildings ground together and sharp reports as power poles snapped. Soon, most of the island of Hawaii was in darkness.’
The tsunami that hit Hilo may have long passed, but it will always be remembered in the hearts of the residents here, who almost lost their lives that very night.