Tsunami hitting Japan - AP - March 11, 2011
The devastating tsunami hitting homes in the Miyagi prefecture of Japan on March 11, 2011, after one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history. Photo by AP
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Tsunami waves could hit Israeli shores and flood over a fifth of Nahariya and Haifa in the north, according to a recent study by the Hebrew University.

Prof. Daniel Felsenstein and Dr. Michal Leichter of the university's geography department have investigated the consequences of rising sea levels in Israel, including extreme scenarios such as tsunamis.

Tsunamis are created by earthquakes; the tectonic shifts violently shake the sea. This can happen along an entire fault line (the place where tectonic plates meet ), many kilometers long. The closer the earthquake is to the surface, the greater its effect on the sea and waves.

Another scenario causing a tsunami happens when large chunks of land collapse into the sea. "In Israel's case, many tsunamis happened because the shoreline slid into the sea as a result of earthquakes in the Dead Sea area," Dr. Amos Salamon of the Geological Survey said on Saturday.

The Hebrew University researchers studied a scenario in which a six-meter tsunami strikes the Israeli coast. "We took the most radical scenario - lower waves can certainly happen and even a six-meter tsunami would only hit parts of the coast," said Leichter.

They said such a tsunami would flood 22.3 percent of Nahariya, or 2.2 square kilometers, and 23.5 percent of Haifa, or 14 square kilometers. Ten percent of Tel Aviv would be flooded, and in all scenarios, rivers near cities would be in danger of overflowing.

In Tel Aviv, a wide area near the Yarkon River estuary would be flooded, and in Haifa, the Kishon Stream area, home to many factories producing dangerous chemicals, would be submerged.

The researchers also looked into what would happen to the Israeli coast if the sea gradually rose by 1.5 meters in the coming century. In this case, 27 square kilometers would be submerged, with Haifa and its low coast sustaining the heaviest damage.

Last year, Salamon released a report on the risk of tsunamis in Israel. He noted that the last 2,000 years have seen around 10 events that can be described as tsunamis. Only one happened in the 20th century - in 1956, a tsunami struck Jaffa's port following an earthquake in the Aegean Sea.