University tsunami expert describes events in Japan

University of Bath tsunami expert Dr Philippe Blondel has spoken widely in the media over the past couple of days about the terrible impact of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Dr Blondel said: "The earthquake in Japan was the biggest recorded in the country and one of the biggest ever in the world, with a magnitude of 8.9 or slightly higher.

"This earthquake occurred along one of the offshore plate boundaries, in the Pacific 'Ring of Fire'.

"It created a tsunami with waves as high as 10 metres in Japan, progressing up to 10km inland and creating massive devastation. The tsunami also propagated at very high speed through the Pacific, affecting all neighbouring countries in the hours that followed.

"The tsunami's waves decreased in height as they spread over larger areas but were still high enough to justify large-scale evacuations and shutdown of plants along its path.

"The earthquake was followed with several strong aftershocks, around 50 of which were of magnitude larger than 5.0, sometimes in quick succession.

"This has strongly affected search and rescue operations, and each aftershock is susceptible of creating another tsunami.

"The tsunami has had devastating effects on marine habitats, on a par with the devastation brought on land by the combination of the earthquake and tsunami."

"Expert seismologists at the British Geological Survey estimate that tsunamis like this one might strike the region about once every thousand years or so."

Research conduced by Dr Blondel has looked at past tsunamis around Europe, from the 1755 tsunami that destroyed Lisbon to the Storegga Landslide (offshore Norway) and resulting tsunami 8,000 years ago, both of which affected the British Isles.

Dr Blondel adds: "Seabed mapping with acoustic sensors reveals the zones most at risk, as well as sources of more frequent events."

Dr Blondel has provided BBC News 24, BBC Points West and ITV West with television interviews and has taken part in radio discussions on BBC Radio Bristol, BBC Radio Wiltshire, BBC Radio Somerset, BBC Radio Scotland and a number of other local commercial stations.

BBC Points West: Dr Philippe Blondel discussing the tsunami in Japan

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