1945: Tsunami strikes Karachi coast, killing 4,000

"The coast is still strewn with wreckage, with corpses being washed up daily."
Published September 11, 2014

After a drill simulating a major earthquake in the Indian Ocean, meteorologists in Pakistan concluded that a tsunami generated by the tremors had the potential to “wipe out” the city of Karachi.

According to chief meteorologist Tauseef Alam, an earthquake of a 9.0-magnitude would create waves as high as 23 feet that would reach the city in 90 minutes.

Alam cited the example of a similar disaster in 1945 that killed 4,000 people in Karachi.

This is the story of that disaster.

4:06am - November 28, 1945

"When the tidal wave struck, thousands of pebbles shot up into the air like volleys of bullets. Villagers snatched at tree-tops as they were tossed about in the mighty rush of the water.

The wave struck before dawn and darkness added to the horror and confusion"

Eye witness account, Times of India

At 04:06am PST on November 28, 1945, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake was generated in the northern Arabian Sea off the Makran coast.

The clock tower at the Karachi Municipality Building stopped and the earth rumbled for approximately 30 seconds.

The tremors were felt as far away as Calcutta (now Kolkata).

According to the Tsunami Society, the epicenter of the quake was estimated at about 408 km SSW of Karachi and as the city settled from the initial shock, a much bigger strike would soon follow.

“People were "thrown out of their beds", doors and windows rattled, and window panes broke. The underwater cable link between Karachi and Muscat (Oman) was damaged, disrupting communications.”

Eye witness account (Tsunami Society).

The earthquake had generated a huge tsunami which “swept the whole of the Arabian Sea coast.

The fishing village of Khudi, 48 km west of Karachi, bore the brunt of the waves and its entire population was swept away. Ormara and Pasni was hit by a 15m high wall of water which caused massive destruction.

The tsunami reached a maximum run up height of 13m (40 feet) along the Makran coast. The waves destroyed fishing villages and caused great damage to port facilities

In Karachi, at least three waves over 2m high, caused heavy damage to the harbour and many lives were lost. The tide continued, but as the water receded it took an even bigger toll on the fishing villages of Keti Bandar.

Pakistan has a coastline of about 1046 km along the Arabian Sea. Makran covers a vast area of about 400km long and 250km wide.

A subduction region is located about 100km away from Makran coast and was responsible for deadly tsunami in 1945.

According to UNESCO’s Oceanographic Commission, the 1945 tsunami was the largest known in the region.

Four thousand villagers have died and several villages have been washed away along to the 100-mile coast from Karachi to Keti Bandar. The coast is still strewn with wreckage, with corpses being washed up daily.

Times of India report