Tsunami Does Minimal Damage in Galapagos Islands

The Tsunami Warning and State of Emergency for the Galapagos Islands was lifted early Saturday morning, and flights and tours all resumed as normal on Saturday. We received a number of reports from our Galapagos partners, all assuring us that there were no serious injuries to people, and that damage was minimal. The tsunami, caused by the large earthquake in Japan, passed the Galapagos Islands on Friday, March 11, about an hour later than expected.

While the tsunami in the Galapagos was nowhere near as large as the one that hit Japan,  it did cause some minor damage to both towns and natural areas in the islands. The timing of the tsunami meant that it hit at high tide, compounding the tsunami effects. The highest water level was close to 6 feet (1.8 meters) above normal, and the greatest damage appears to have been in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, and on San Cristobal island. Reports are not in from all natural areas just yet, but damage does not appear to be major. There are reports of damage to sea turtle and marine iguana nests in various locations.  At Garrapatero Beach on Santa Cruz Island it appears that sea turtle nests, as well as a flamingo lagoon, were destroyed by the surging water.

Several hotels in Puerto Ayora were flooded, but repairs and cleanup have been swift and most everything is open and back to where it was before the tsunami.

Here is some video of the cleanup at the Hotel Sol Y Mar in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos:

Here is a report from the Charles Darwin Foundation

Puerto Ayora, Galapagos
“March 14, 2011

“In the aftermath of the tidal surges induced by the March 11th Japan earthquake and tsunami, a team of more than 20 staff and volunteers worked shoulder to shoulder to clear debris, retrieve equipment and clean laboratories, offices and storage buildings at the Marine Sciences complex of the Galapagos-based Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and Research Station on Santa Cruz Island.

“The powerful surf hit Santa Cruz with waves up to 1.77m /5.8 feet above normal according to data from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC), one of the highest readings in the Eastern Pacific.  The waves also coincided with the local high tide, sending the first wall of water into the CDF installation at approximately 18:00.  Two subsequent waves at intervals of 26 minutes raised the water level 1.50m/4.9 feet above the upper CDF Marine Lab dock.  “The waves,” stated Dr. Volker Koch, CDF Director of Marine Sciences, “completely destroyed a concrete pump house, broke through heavy wooden doors, flooded laboratories, workshops and storage facilities, and carried off furniture and equipment,” despite advance emergency preparation.  CDF Senior Scientist Stuart Banks observed that: “Equipment ranging from dive tanks, small boats, wooden furniture, freezers and field supplies was widely scattered.  We found items in the ground floor laboratory, buried in sand and vegetation, driven 50 meters [165 feet] up the entrance trail and dispersed across a 200 meter [650 foot] radius around the mangrove-lined shore.”

“The first wave arrived 20 minutes after the ETA of 17:40 predicted for Baltra Island to the north of Santa Cruz.  The receding wave lowered the water level in Academy Bay from full tide by more than one meter/3 feet within 12 minutes.  The sea then rose rapidly to cover the CDF dock. The second ebb was stronger than the first and subsequent waves continued into the night, gradually reducing their amplitude into mid-morning of the following day.

“No injuries were sustained and no other areas of the CDF Research Station were significantly damaged.  Staff are in the process of damage assessment and will calculate overall losses in the coming days.”