Tsunami Research in Egypt

For the first time in Egypt, Dr.Hesham El-Barmelgy has started a postgraduate course titled "Tsunami and Sustainability of Coastal Tsunami. The course aims to transfer and spread the knowledge of the tsunami hazard on coastal areas, within the architecture, urban design and the planning fields. The course is also offered online as an elearing course at Cairo University, Faculty of Urban and Regional Planning.

Tsunami is one of the worlds’ largest catastrophic phenomenon (Cochard et al., 2008). Although the hazard duration lasts only a few hours, its impact lasts for life on property and the natural environment (Paris et al., 2009; Cochard et al., 2008). Tsunamis form major geomorphic crises causing changes of coastal lines, beach erosion, sediment transport inshore and offshore only in a few minuets and over hundreds of coastal kilometres (Dawson and Stewart, 2007; Maouche et al., 2007; Camilleri, 2006). Tsunami is a natural phenomenon that is triggered by other natural phenomena such as submarine faulting, submarine slides and slumps triggered by shallow strong earthquakes, submarine volcanic explosions erupting a huge mass of lava into the water, and a falling cosmic from outer space (Todorovska and Trifunac, 2001; Lovholt et al., 2012). When these natural causing phenomena occur, separated or combined, they cause eruption of the seabed and the entire depth of the water column forming tsunami waves. The tsunami waves have very long wave-lengths between 100 and 200 km that can travel all over an ocean basin easily in an excess speed of 500 km/hr (Dominey-Howes, 1998). The height of the wave while travelling in open water is limited causing no or minimal threats; however, when approaching shores of coastal areas it builds up to tens of meters in height (Ozel et al., 2011; Todorovska and Trifunac, 2001).

Until recently, tsunami was not considered a hazard phenomenon; however, following the Boxing Day Tsunami the conscious of the world has changed towards one of the most natural devastating phenomenon. On the 26th of December 2004 the world witnessed “the third largest fast natural disaster calamity recorded in human history and largest to be caused by sea waves” (Cochard et al., 2008:4). The Indian Ocean witnessed the second largest earthquake on record with a magnitude of 9.3 (Paris et al., 2009) triggering one of the worlds most violent natural catastrophic tsunami of exceptional dimensions. The 2004 tsunami known as the ‘Boxing Day Tsunami’ was rated one of the largest and deadliest tsunamis in recorded human history. Waves records on attacked shores were more than 20m high travelling at a speed of up to 800 km/h flushing inward in low lying areas for several kilometres, resulting in an estimated death of over 300 thousand people and left around more than 700 thousand people homeless (Ozel et al., 2011; Pignateli et al., 2009).

Egypt, with a wide stretch of coastline communities overlooking the Mediterranean, and thus highly vulnerable to a tsunami threat, needs to trigger an alarm concerning vulnerability of the cities to tsunami risks. The active lithosphere plate classifies the Mediterranean Sea region as a geodynamical high seismic activity and significant volcanisms basin (Papadopoulos and Fokaefs, 2005). Ten percent of all tsunamis worldwide occur in the Mediterranean, with an average of one catastrophic event occurring every century. With the current (130 million) and rapidly growing coastal population exposure to a large tsunami would be catastrophic (Papadopoulos and Fokaefs, 2005).

There is a vital need for a strategic hazard analysis and risk assessment model that would prevent people living in coastal cities from being caught by tsunami waves. This would express the crucial and urgent need for careful mapping of potential tsunami hazard areas upon which strategic tsunami mitigation, preparedness and early warning initiatives could be taken (Lovholt et al., 2012; Ozel et al., 2011). The ability to identify the people at risk would allow planners to promote sustainable plans for coastal communities, also planning for emergency and disaster evacuation plans and strategies would be possible. Long term and short term planning mitigation measures for reducing risk and building vulnerability could be carried out. Eisner (2005) listed seven principles for reducing the risk of costal communities to the tsunami hazard. The first, and the most important of which, is the ability to define the community’s tsunami risk; including hazard, exposure and vulnerability (Eisner, 2005). Another astonishing fact was that Eisner’s remaining six listed principles are concerned with planning issues as the major source for mitigating tsunami impacts. On reviewing the tsunami and planning literature as a planner expert, the importance of such research field is non-prevalent, if it indeed exists. Tsunami hazard assessment and planning measures have to be identified as a research gap area with high and urgent research priority (Kelman, 2006; Yolsal-Cevikbilen and Taymaz, 2012), especially in developing countries with highly exposed coastal communities.



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