1979 Nice tsunami

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On October 16, 1979: a landslide at the Nice Airport, an aseismic submarine landslide, and two tsunamis that struck the coast near Nice.

Submarine landslide Landslides that transport sediment across the continental shelf and into the deep ocean

Submarine landslides are marine landslides that transport sediment across the continental shelf and into the deep ocean. A submarine landslide is initiated when the downwards driving stress exceeds the resisting stress of the seafloor slope material causing movements along one or more concave to planar rupture surfaces. Submarine landslides take place in a variety of different settings including planes as low as 1° and can cause significant damage to both life and property. Recent advances have been made in understanding the nature and processes of submarine landslides through the use of sidescan sonar and other seafloor mapping technology.

<i>Tsunami</i> Series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water

A tsunami or tidal wave,, also known as a seismic sea wave, is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions (including detonations, landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. Unlike normal ocean waves, which are generated by wind, or tides, which are generated by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun, a tsunami is generated by the displacement of water.

Nice Prefecture and commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Nice is the seventh most populous urban area in France and the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes département. The metropolitan area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits, with a population of about 1 million on an area of 721 km2 (278 sq mi). Located in the French Riviera, on the south east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, at the foot of the Alps, Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast and the second-largest city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region after Marseille. Nice is approximately 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from the principality of Monaco and 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the French-Italian border. Nice's airport serves as a gateway to the region.


The two waves struck the coast between the Italian border and the town of Antibes (60 miles; 96 km). [1] They reached 3 m high near Nice and 3.5 m [2] at La Salis (Antibes) and decreased in amplitude from there.

Antibes Commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Antibes is a Mediterranean resort in the Alpes-Maritimes department of southeastern France, on the Côte d'Azur between Cannes and Nice.


The origin of these events has been a subject of academic and judicial debate. [3] A hypothesis said that it was the landslide at the Nice airport; the other, the underwater slide. [4]

In the first hypothesis, there was a 150 m3 [5] slide off Nice airport while constructing the fill of a new airport, perhaps as a consequence of this work. This landslide would have caused the first tsunami. After that, the material of this slide would have caused the submarine slide that would have caused the second tsunami. [4]

In the second hypothesis, the major natural submarine landslide (~8.7 km2) that occurred offshore Nice caused a tsunami which would have caused a landslide of the fill of the new airport. This landslide caused another tsunami. [4]


It has been estimated that between 8 [2] and 23 [6] people died in these events.

At the construction work, the collapsing fill killed seven people. [2]

The tsunamis inundated a 20-mile section of the coast. [7] The water travelled up to 150 m inland. [2] The 11 people swept away in Nice and one in Antibes were presumed dead. [1] Economic damages were large.

The airport works were finished, but this event has precluded the construction of a new port for Nice.

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  1. 1 2 Allaby, M. (2004). A Chronology of Weather. Infobase Publishing.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Sahal, A., & Lemahieu, A. (2011). The 1979 nice airport tsunami: mapping of the flood in Antibes. Natural hazards, 56(3), 833–840.
  3. Lee, H. J., Locat, J., Desgagnés, P., Parsons, J. D., McAdoo, B. G., Orange, D. L., ... & Boulanger, E. (2007). Submarine mass movements on continental margins. Continental margin sedimentation: from sediment transport to sequence stratigraphy, 213–274.
  4. 1 2 3 Seed, H. B. (1988). The landslide at the Port of Nice on October 16, 1979. Earthquake Engineering Research Center, University of California.
  5. Nisbet, E. G., & Piper, D. J. (1998). Giant submarine landslides. Nature, 392(6674), 329–330.
  6. Rana, S. V. S. (2007). Essentials of ecology and environmental science. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd..
  7. Dudley, W. C., & Lee, M. (1998). Tsunami!. University of Hawaii Press.

Coordinates: 43°38′47″N7°12′57″E / 43.6464°N 7.2157°E / 43.6464; 7.2157