Tsunami waves triggered by a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan have led to widespread warnings covering the entire West Coast of U.S. and Canada, from the Mexican border to Alaska, Hawaii, and at least 50 other countries, including Russia, Central America, El Salvador, Costa Rica and the Philippines. The quake is thought to be the worst to ever hit Japan, reportedly killing hundreds, as a wall of water swept away buildings and cars. Tsunami waves can travel at the speed of an airplane—500 miles an hour—and may propel a series of storm surges a quarter mile inland.
Residents in coastal areas that may be affected by the tsunami are advised to stay tuned to the news for instructions from officials and be prepared to evacuate if necessary.
The main health threats after a tsunami are drowning, injuries, water-borne illness, such as cholera, food borne illness (the CDC has helpful food safety tips), disorders linked to poor hygiene (check out these sanitation strategies) and lack of shelter. Natural disasters don’t always cause infectious disease outbreaks, but can have a wide range of immediate and long-term health effects.
What’s the best way to prepare? The Red Cross and other groups offer these tips, which are also smart ways to be ready for other types of disasters.
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