Sep 30, 2009 4:50 PM by Seth Borenstein

Tsunami victims didn't have time to get to high ground

Science and geography combined so that the residents of American Samoa didn't stand much of a chance.

Almost all the conditions that trigger bad tsunamis were in place this week, producing waves that roared toward the island territory at the speed of a 747 jumbo jet. There was nothing to slow it down.

It started with the type of earthquake that tends to generate the strongest tsunamis. It was one of the biggest on record for that type of seismic disruption. It shook just below the ocean floor, under thousands of feet of water, causing huge waves.

That deeper water meant greater speed for the tsunami. American Samoa was about 125 miles from the epicenter and at just the right angle, leaving little time for people to get to high ground.


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