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Last Updated: Monday, 27 June, 2005, 23:50 GMT 00:50 UK
UK tsunami risk 'not discounted'
High tides pound the Spa Theatre, Scarborough in July 2004
The report found a low risk to the UK from a tsunami
The threat posed to the UK by tsunamis is very low, but cannot completely be discounted, a government report says.

Even so, the wave heights produced are unlikely to exceed those of storm surges, against which coastal centres have existing defences.

Nonetheless, current warning systems may be adapted to cope with tsunamis.

The team behind the report, led by the British Geological Survey, took into account historical and geological evidence, and wave propagation models.

"After the devastation that hit parts of South Asia at Christmas, we felt that it was important to look at the likelihood of a tsunami affecting the UK and what the risks might be," commented environment minister Elliot Morley.

"The report confirms that the probability is very low, and that in most cases our current defences to major centres should be sufficient.

"However, we will be looking at what further appropriate steps could be taken to adapt our existing warning and response systems."

Historic events

Despite the low probability of a future tsunami affecting the UK, several past events meant researchers could not completely discount the possibility.

The most notable of these was the earthquake and ensuing tsunami which destroyed Lisbon in Portugal on 1 November, 1755. The earthquake, estimated at magnitude 8.6, generated waves with a maximum height of 18m (60ft).

Torrential rain hits Scarborough, July 2004
Defra will look at adapting current UK warning systems
There is also firm geological evidence that a tsunami hit the coasts of Scotland and north-east England following an undersea landslide off Norway about 8,200 years ago.

Other researchers, such as Bill McGuire of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre in London, have warned of the effects of a tsunami generated by the collapse of part of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma in the Canary Islands.

But the effects of any tsunami generated by such an event would be small in the UK compared with, say, the eastern United States.

Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) said it would now focus further investigation on the feasibility of adapting existing warning and response systems to take account of the differences in character and timing between storm surges - with which they are designed to cope - and tsunamis.

These investigations will get underway later this year. The need for further action will be reviewed as appropriate, Defra added.

The report was compiled by a consortium led by the British Geological Survey and including the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, the Met Office, and specialist consultants HR Wallingford.

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