Papua-New Guinea

July 31 - August 8, 1998


 Click on the site names above to see photos or learn more about the effect of the tsunami in that region

ANGELES TIMES PICK This site was awarded a Times Pick by the Los Angeles Times on 8/5/98.

A message to the world regarding tsunami field surveys.

On July 17, 1998 a Mw = 7.0 earthquake struck the north central coast of Papua New Guinea. Following the earthquake a large tsunami also struck the region. Initial reports claimed that the wave was between 7 and 10 meters and that up to 3000 persons were killed or missing. This seemed to be an unusually damaging tsunami given the size of the earthquake. Members of the International Tsunami Survey Team decided that a field survey was necessary as soon as possible to try and determine the true value of the maximum runup and to accurately map the runup distribution along the coast.

Upon arrival at the disaster relief command post in Aitape, the team was granted full access to the sealed region around Sissano Lagoon and Sissano Village, the site of the most deaths and greatest destruction. The first surveys to the Sissano region confirmed the 7 - 10 m wave reports and even found a place where the waves were larger - up to 15 m. The severe damage and extreme wave heights were confined to a relatively short (40 km) stretch of coast between Aitape and Sissano Village.

The survey was conducted by a multinational team with representatives from Japan, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. The team was broken up into two groups, the Japanese and everyone else. The Japanese team traveled overland from Wewak to Aitape measuring runup along the way. Japanese team members also installed seismographs in the region to measure aftershock activity. The rest of the team traveled by ship from Wewak to the west stopping at some of the offshore islands. The two groups reunited in Aitape before a survey of the Sissano area was conducted. The boat continued west as far as Serai Village where runup values were seen to diminish considerably.

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