Quake Question #2: Are Underground Tsunami Shelters a Good Idea?

Readers ask: Would it be possible to build underground emergency tsunami shelters that would be insulated from the earthquakes that would surely precede the wave?

Science answers: This is technically possible but probably not a good idea. It would be psychologically difficult to persuade people to go underground to avoid a tsunami. Debris could pile up around or on top of any entrance. And, as in this case, coastal areas hit by a tsunami can remain flooded for several days, a situation aggravated in some areas by ground subsidence.

For a complete list of quake questions and answers, see our Quake Questions page. For our complete coverage of the crisis in Japan, see our Japan Earthquake page.