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BVI Tsumani

Monday, February 1 – The Archives and Records Management Unit has confirmed that the Virgin Islands experienced a tsunami more than a century ago.

Responding to the queries about whether the Virgin Islands ever experienced a tsunami that were prompted by the devastating January 12 earthquake that shook Haiti, the department has shared a report that was recorded in the Harper’s Weekly newspaper dated November 30, 1867.


According to the Chief Records Management Officer, Mrs. Verna Penn Moll, the report titled, The West India Flood reads, “One of those terrible hurricanes which occasionally occur in the tropics has lately passed across the Gulf of Mexico, laying waste portions of Texas and Mexico, and devastating many of the islands in the West India group. Galveston, Texas was very much damaged…two houses were left standing in Clarksville; and Bagdad was entirely blown and washed away.”

The report continued, “In Santo Domingo the capital was desolated, and two hundred lives lost; and nearly all the shipping was wrecked.  In St. Thomas over sixty vessels were destroyed.  The island of Tortola was partly inundated and several persons were drowned, but the island was not submerged and 10,000 lives lost, as was first reported.”

Mrs. Penn Moll shared with the Department of Information and Public Relations that it is well documented elsewhere that the disaster was in fact a tsunami, which hit the Caribbean on November 17, 1867.  The European Geosciences Union and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) – Science for a Changing World have done extensive studies on the Virgin Islands Tsunami of 1867. 

Mrs. Moll added, “The article and a photograph showing the devastation on Tortola in 1867 are on display at the Archives and Records Management Unit located upstairs the Burhym Building in Road Town.

The Public Information and Education Sub-Committee of the National Disaster Management Council will focus further on earthquakes and tsunamis in the month of March. 


The Archives and Records Management Programme was established in April, 2004 in the Deputy Governor’s Office. Its objective is to encourage proper records management in Government and to develop a comprehensive archives and records management programme.


For more tsunami information, see our article from April 2009: http://www.bviguides.com/Domains/bviyachtguide/featured_article/editorial/tsunamis.html

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