Relief & Recovery

Recovering from a Tsunami

General information to help you recover from a tsunami

Immediately after a tsunami 

A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first one.

  • Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might interfere with emergency response operations and put you at further risk from the residual effects of floods.
  • Stay away from debris in the water; it may pose a safety hazard to people or pets.
  • Check yourself for injuries and get first aid as needed before helping injured or trapped persons.
  • If someone needs to be rescued, call professionals with the right equipment to help. Many people have been killed or injured trying to rescue others.
  • Help people who require special assistance—infants, elderly people, those without transportation, people with access and functional needs and large families who may need additional help in an emergency situation.
  • Stay out of any building that has water around it. Tsunami water can cause floors to crack or walls to collapse.


Returning home

  • Return home only after local officials tell you it is safe.
  • Use caution when re-entering buildings or homes. Tsunami-driven floodwater may have damaged buildings where you least expect it. Carefully watch every step you take.
  • When cleaning up, wear protective clothing, such as sturdy footwear, loose long-sleeved shirts and trousers and heavy duty work gloves.
  • Don’t use any gas or electrical appliances before having them checked first.
  • Local water supplies may be contaminated, so boil tap water until local water authorities tell you that the water is safe to drink.
  • Avoid any areas that remain flooded.

Before going onto your property, consider:

  • Damaged gas or electricity supplies – these hazards need to be declared safe by a qualified electrician or plumber.
  • The structural integrity of your home may be affected – this needs to be declared safe by a qualified building surveyor.
  • There may be asbestos debris in your home. Where there is extensive demolition, repair and renovation work involving asbestos-containing material, licensed asbestos contractors should be employed to undertake the work.
  • CSIRO's Flood Damage Advisor is an online web tool providing information on common building, fabric and material problems that occur after a flood.
  • Food and drinking water may be contaminated – do not eat or drink anything unless you know it is safe (bottled, boiled or disinfected).
  • In case gas has collected inside, do not smoke or use matches, lighters or other open flames. Use a torch or other battery-operated lights.
  • Pets and other animals may have died and need to be removed. For advice on safe disposal of animals, speak to your local council or veterinarian.
  • Mosquitoes can breed rapidly and become a nuisance – cover skin with long sleeves and pants, and use an insect repellent.
  • Wild animals, including rodents, snakes or spiders, may be trapped in and around your home.
  • Flooding can cause excessive mould growth, which must be cleaned up before moving back to your home.
  • Flooding may cause sewage to overflow inside your home. Contaminated areas must be cleaned and disinfected. Keep children and pets away until the clean-up is completed.
  • If you rely on rainwater or groundwater, your water may be contaminated after floods. Find out what you need to know.
  • If you live in a flood-affected area, your septic tank system may be affected.


Power outages

When power outages occur, people often turn to alternative sources of fuel or electricity. Here's how to stay safe.  Find out what to do during a power outage in the guide to power outages.


Your health

A number of infectious diseases, including gastrointestinal infections and hepatitis A, can spread through contact with contaminated surfaces.  The likelihood of illness increases when water contains faecal material (poo) from overflowing sewage systems, agricultural or industrial wastes.
Never use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash your hands, wash and prepare food, make ice or make baby formula.

Here are some tips to help you stay healthy after a tsunami.

  • Local water authorities will tell you if tap water is safe or unsafe to drink, use for cooking, cleaning or bathing. If the water is not safe, use bottled, boiled or disinfected water. An above ground rainwater tank that has not been inundated with water or damaged should be safe for continued use.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and safe water (that has been boiled or disinfected) after handling articles contaminated with floodwater or sewage.
  • If boiled or disinfected water is not available, you can use alcohol-based products to disinfect your hands.
  • If you have any open cut or sore that has been exposed to floodwater keep it as clean as possible by washing with soap and covering with a plaster and contact a doctor for further treatment advice (such as a tetanus shot).
  • Don’t allow children to play in water or with flood-damaged toys until they have been disinfected.
  • Throw away any food that has come into direct contact with water, anything in the fridge if it has been left above 5°C for more than four hours and anything in containers with screw caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soft drink bottles), twist caps, flip-top lids and home-canned foods.

Department of Health & Human Services provide further information to be aware of for your health after an emergency .


Your family & friends

The Australian Red Cross activates the Register, Find, Reunite service to reunite family, friends and loved ones after a major emergency.


Emotional assistance

It is normal to have strong emotional or physical reactions after an emergency – these feelings are part of the healing process. Here are some strategies for coping with trauma in recovery.

In families, each person reacts in their own way after an emergency. Understanding each other and some of the common reactions to look out for can help your family. The better health channel has more info about trauma and families.

  • LifeLine – phone 131 114 - A 24-hour telephone service that offers confidential support and advice to help you deal with stress and personal challenges.
  • Beyondblue information line – phone 1300 224 636 - An information line that offers expert information on depression; how to recognise the signs of depression, how to get help, how to help someone else and how to stay well.
  • Mensline – phone 1300 789 978 - A telephone support, information and referral service, helping men deal with their relationship problems.
  • Nurse-on-Call – phone 1300 60 60 24 - A 24-hour telephone service that allows people to discuss any health-related issue with a registered nurse for the cost of a local call.


Financial assistance

The Personal Hardship Assistance Program provides financial assistance to alleviate personal hardship and distress suffered by eligible Victorians as a result of an emergency.

The Australian Tax Office has general information about help available for people affected by emergencies.


Consumer affairs

The Consumer Affairs Victoria website provides information and advice about your rights and obligations following an emergency:

  • Renting and rebuilding (with advice about travelling con men)
  • Insurance, banking and financial hardship
  • Fundraising scams
  • Price rip-offs


Legal Advice

Disaster Legal Help Victoria provides free legal advice, assistance and referrals to people affected by a disaster. 

For assistance, please phone Disaster Legal Help Victoria's free helpline on 1800 113 432. This phone line is open throughout the year between 8.45am-5.15pm, Monday to Friday.

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