John Stanmeyer
Read Caption

A U.S. Marine helicopter loaded with food flies over Lampuuk in northern Sumatra after a tsunami killed most of the village's 7,000 residents–and some 230,000 people on coastlines around the Indian Ocean.

John Stanmeyer

Tsunami Safety Tips

Tsunamis involve intense forces and overwhelming volumes of water.

Tsunamis can wreak havoc on coastal populations and landscapes. The December 26, 2004, tsunami in the Indian Ocean claimed some 150,000 lives and cleared the landscape on millions of acres of oceanfront terrain.

Tsunamis 101 Tsunamis are giant, powerful waves most often caused by earthquakes beneath the ocean floor. Their incredible power can destroy entire communities, then drag the debris out to sea. This video shows what causes tsunamis and the importance of evacuating any area under a tsunami alert.

Here are some measures you can take to avoid trouble if you're caught in a tsunami.

How to Prepare

• When in coastal areas, stay alert for tsunami warnings.

• Learn details of the local warning systems.

• Plan an evacuation route that leads to higher ground.

• Know the warning signs of a tsunami: rapidly rising or falling coastal waters and rumblings of an offshore earthquake.

Once It Hits

• Never stay near shore to watch a tsunami come in.

• A tsunami is a series of waves. Do not return to an affected coastal area until authorities say it is safe.