A tsunami washed over the low-lying coastal resort region near Camaná, southern Peru, following a strong earthquake on June 23, 2001. The earthquake was one of the most powerful of the last 35 years and had a magnitude of 8.4. After the initial quake, coastal residents witnessed a sudden drawdown of the ocean and knew a tsunami was imminent. They had less than 20 minutes to reach higher ground before the tsunami hit. Waves as high as 8 m came in four destructive surges reaching as far as 1.2 km inland. The dashed line marks the approximate area of tsunami inundation. Thousands of buildings were destroyed, and the combined earthquake and tsunami killed as many as 139 people.
This image (ISS004-E-6128) was taken by astronauts onboard the International Space Station on 10 January 2002. It shows some of the reasons that the Camaná area was so vulnerable to tsunami damage. The area has a 1 km band of coastal plain that is less than 5 m in elevation. Much of the plain can be seen by the bright green fields of irrigated agriculture that contrast with the light-colored desert high ground. Many of the tsunami-related deaths were workers in the onion fields in the coastal plain that were unwilling to leave their jobs before the end of the shift. A number of lives were spared because the tsunami occurred during the resort off-season, during the daylight when people could see the ocean drawdown, and during one of the lowest tides of the year.
Earthquake Epicenter, Peru shows another image of the area.
Image provided by the Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory at Johnson Space Center. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA-JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.
- ISS - Digital Camera