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Search for Eyewitness Accounts and Historical Documents on 1945 Makran Tsunami

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission has brought together an international team of experts to collect evidence and study the chain of events that resulted in the loss of an estimated 300 lives in the Makran Tsunami that hit the coasts of India, Iran, Oman, and Pakistan in 1945.

Specialists from all four countries are seeking to interview survivors and witnesses and collate evidence to reconstruct the chain of events that cost so many lives and exposed the region’s vulnerability to tsunami events.

During the early hours of the morning of 28 November 1945, a magnitude 8.1earthquake occurred on the Makran subduction zone, a giant fault that slants beneath the Arabian Sea coast of Pakistan and Iran. The shaking, which caused buildings to collapse in what is now Pakistan, was followed by a tsunami that flooded shores as far west as Geshmi, Iran and as far east as Mumbai (then Bombay), India. 

The multi-national project to reconstruct this history is administered by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). Primary funding has been provided by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness with additional support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The experts are also collecting evidence from newspaper stories, administrative documents, census data, logs of rescue and relief vessels, aerial photographs, intelligence reports, and personal diaries.

Leads to additional oral and written sources are welcome and can be sent to Nora Gale at the UNESCO IOC office for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS) in Perth, Western Australia (e-mail: n.gale(at)

Compared to other faults capable of generating large tsunami, the Makran subduction zone has not been widely studied. The 1945 event is the largest known historical tsunami to have occurred in the region and there is little information compiled on its effects. The youngest eye witnesses are in their mid-seventies. Their accounts could significantly contribute to knowledge of the event and its impact.

The overall aim of the project is to unravel the chain of events of 28 November 1945, to improve our understanding of tsunami generation, propagation and inundation in the Makran region. All eye witness interviews and historical documents will be made available to policy makers and the public via the Indian Ocean Tsunami Information Centre website and in a UNESCO educational booklet.

The team will publish the findings, including public safety and policy recommendations, on the UNESCO IOC Indian Ocean Tsunami Information Centre  (IOTIC, website and within an IOC UNESCO booklet in late 2014.