A June 18 tsunami along Greenland’s northwestern coast, facing Baffin Island to the west, has left two people seriously injured, seven slightly injured, four people still missing and 11 houses in the village of Nuugaatsiaq, population about 100, completely destroyed or swept out to sea.
The toll of this past weekend’s tsunami in northwest Greenland might seem small when compared to the 2004 tsunami in Asia where more than 200,000 died but for people in Greenland, with its large land mass and relatively small population, the pain and response to this unexpected natural disaster and shared loss has been huge—similar in scale to the 1999 New Year’s Eve avalanche in Nunavik, which killed nine, injured many and wrecked buildings.
Everyone on the close-knit island has reached out with donations of money, goods, and artwork, as well as with prayer vigils, to help and support those who lost their relatives, homes and belongings as water poured into Nuugaatsiaq at about midnight June 18. Air Greenland and shipping companies have also mobilized their fleets to help send in relief, while the Royal Danish Air Force has sent a Hercules to assist.
“It’s hard to believe what happened last night,” Greenland’s Prime Minister Kim Kielsen said in a June 18 Facebook post. “After the earthquake in Nuugaatsiaq we were made aware that the forces of nature can suddenly change… what happened is tragic and my thoughts are with everyone from Nuugaatsiaq.”
In this YouTube video, the sights and sounds of residents fleeing from the wall of water, while dogs can be heard howling in the distance, communicate the magnitude of the event.