Tsunamis and Tsunami Hazards in Central America
Fernández Arce, Mario
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A tsunami catalogue for Central America is compiled containing 49 tsunamis for the period 1539–1996, thirty seven of them are in the Pacific and twelve in the Caribbean. At the Caribbean side, 5 events are related with the North American-Caribbean Plate Boundary (NA-CA) and 7 with the North Panama Deformed Belt (NPDB). There are ten local tsunamis with a specific damage report, seven in the Pacific and the rest in the Caribbean. The total number of casualties due to local tsunamis is less than 455 but this number could be higher. A preliminary empirical estimation of tsunami hazard indicates that 43% of the large earthquakes (Ms > 7.0) along the Pacific Coast of Central America and 100% along the Caribbean, generate tsunamis. On the Pacific, the Guatemala–Nicaragua coastal segment has a 32% probability of generating tsunamis after large earthquakes while the probability is 67% for the Costa Rica–Panama segment. Sixty population centers on the Pacific Coast and 44 on the Caribbean are exposed to the impact of tsunamis. This estimation also suggests that areas with higher tsunami potential in the Pacific are the coasts from Nicaragua to Guatemala and Central Costa Rica; on the Caribbean side, Golfo de Honduras Zone and the coasts of Panama and Costa Rica have major hazard.