Thursday, March 15, 2018


Yesterday  (March 14 at 9:45) a Tsunami and Earthquake drill took place at Sosua, it was coordinated by the Province of Puerto Plata, the National Government, the National Emercency Comitee and the National Environment Agency: with the sound of sirens public buildings were ecacuated , firefighters and police patrolled the streets.  The Dominican Republic has worked a lot to be ready in case of emergency: there are strict anti seismic rules in its construction laws, real time monitoring  of earthquakes and tsunamis  are in place and emergency protocols and guidelines are in place. 

Earthquake and Tsunami drill March 14, 2018 Sosua

We have decided to contribute to the public authorities' praiseworthy efforts to prevent and manage the earthquakes and tsunami risk by publishing the following study with a risk evaluation and a simulation of what could happen  to Sosua and Cabarete in case of Tsunami.


The island of Hispaniola, which includes Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is a strongly active seismic zone on the boundary of the North American and Caribbean plates which, according to geodetic and gps data, converge at a rate of 2 cm per year on average. Studies carried out using satellite images and measurements with the GPS system (Global Positioning System), found  the internal distribution of displacement of the Caribbean plate (20 ± 2 mm / year) between the fault systems: the Septentrional Fault accumulates displacements of 8 ± 2 mm / year, the Hispaniola Trench of 5± 1 mm / year and the Southern fault system of 8 ± 1 mm / year.  These displacement rates have the potential to accumulate a stress level which could produce, when released, earthquakes of magnitude greater than 6.5.
Observing the USGS map below there are 4 main fault lines causing seismic hazard:

1-The Hispaniola Trench
2-The Septentrional Fault
3-The Enriquillo Fault
4-The Muertos Trough

seismicity map dominican republic
USGD seismicity map: Dominican Republic

In this article we will focus on the Hispaniola trench:  oceanic trenches are topographic depressions of the sea floor, relatively narrow in width, but very long and they form the deepest parts of the ocean floor. Oceanic trenches are a distinctive morphological feature of convergent plate boundaries

The USGS 3D relief underwater map below show the Hispaniola Trench which starts after the Mona Canyon at the end of the Puerto Rico Trench. The Hispaniola Trench, which parallels the north coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and is 550 kilometers (344 miles) long and 4,500 meters (14,764 feet) deep. Scientific studies have concluded that an earthquake occurring along this fault zone could generate a significant tsunami toward the Dominican North Coast.

hispaniola trench
USGD seismicity map: Hispaniola Trench relief map

Deep-sea trenches are susceptible to earthquakes: occasionally, the sudden rupture and movement of the crust can displace thousands of meters of water, setting in motion great tsunami waves. 
Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Hispaniola (shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic) are located near earthquake-prone deep-ocean trenches similar to those that recently have caused earthquakes and a tsunami off Sumatra, Indonesia. A large fault that runs along Sumatra also bears striking resemblance to the Septentrional Fault Zone in Hispaniola. 

Several destructive earthquakes created tsunamis along the fault line of the Puerto Rico Trench and Hispaniola Trench over the last 200 years:  

Histrocial map of Earthquakes which formed Tsunami hitting the  Dominican Republic (Pararas,Carayannis 2010)

Historical map if Tsunamis in the Caribbeans with their run-up measures

A total of 88 tsunamis - most of them moderate - have been reported in the earthquake- prone, volcano-ringed Caribbean area since 1489. Based on the historic record, there is a high probability that a destructive tsunami will be generated again in the Northern Caribbean region that will affect coastal areas of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Tsunami waves with a height of up to 10-12 meters could strike coastal areas. Based on the historical record and rates of crustal movements, large tsunamigenic earthquakes on the Hispaniola Trench can be expected on average every 100 years, but they may occur at more frequent intervals. Thus tsunamigenic earthquake on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic is highly probable, it is not a question of if another major earthquake will happen but when. The last destructive Tsunami which hit the Dominican Republic was in 1946:


On Sunday, August 4, 1946, a M ¼ 8.1 earthquake struck off the northeastern shore of the Dominican Republic, it caused extensive damage and loss of life. This earthquake also produced a  tsunami  which is thought to have killed 1790 people at Matancitas near Nagua. The Tsunami wave had a run up between 2 and 5 meters with maximum tsunami height of 8 m likely associated with splash up was measured in Playa Boca Nueva (very little information and data ara available from few historical sources). The inundation distance covered by the Tsunami was extensive: inundation distances of 600 meters or more were measured at Las Terrenas and Playa Rincon on the Samana Peninsula. The Tsunami striked the coast just 30 minutes after the earthquake: when the sea receded after the earthquake many went to collect fish from the exposed shore, when the tsunami wave arrived they had no place to run.

 Rare historicla pictures of the 1946 Earthquake and Tsunami, Nagua, Dominican Republic

Until 10 years ago there has not been much concern about thetsunami risk in the caribbeans, this is probaly explained by the comparatively low frequency of the phenomenon, however history and current research confirm the very high tsunami risks to which the Caribbean coasts are exposed. However after the great Tsunamis of Sumatra (2004) and Japan (2011) things changed: in the year 2008, the Seismic Network of Puerto Rico carried out the installation of a tide gauge with the objective of monitoring the level of the sea and its changes, such as the storm surges and Tsunamis, the project involved ONAMET, the Secretary of Environment and the ISU-UASD. This tide gauge is located in Puerto Punta Caucedo and it is part of the 16 tide gauges that will operate in the network of the Caribbean Sea.

Within the National Meteorological Office (ONAMET), a Tsunami Warning Unit has been in existence since September 2008. In 2014 the Dominican Government through the ONAMET put in force a "Manual of Protocol of procedure in case of Tsunamis".
At present, the Tsunami Warning Section maintains a state-of-the-art early warning system. This system consists of 4 tide gauges located in the North, East and South Coast of the territory.
The Tsunami Warning Section is a unit of the Division of Synoptic Meteorology and Forecasts of ONAMET, from where these threats are continuously monitored.



Below we will simulate the effect of a destructive earthquake in the Hispaniola Trench off the coast of Puerto Plata under four  different scenarios.

Location of the Earthquake in our simulation

It is important to note that the Hispaniola Trench is just 35 Km off the coast in front of Puerto Plata , such a short distance implies that a tsunami wave generated by the underwater earthquake could reach the coast in just 30 minutes or even less. Readiness and early warning is very important to reduce the damages caused by such an event. We are glad that the communities of Sosua and Cabarete have protocols in place to deal with these risks.
Th Hispaniola Trench rises from a maximum depth of 4500 meters to the the surphace of the sea in just 35 kilometres: this steep shoreline’s slope can result in a resonance that sends more water onshore increasing the Tsunami Run Up when the Tsunami wave reach the coast.

The maximum vertical height onshore above sea level reached by a tsunami is called Run Up.

Hispaniola trench sea bed at -4'500mts  and its  steep slope to the shore line od Sosua and Cabarete

Simulation A: Severe Earthquake and Tsunami

Magnitudo: 8 (similar to the 1946 earthquake and Tsunami of Nagua)
Depth: 30km
Position: Hispaniola Trench 35km north of Puerto Plata Airport
Distance from the shoreline: 35k (21miles)
Tsunami Run Up: 5 meters (similar to the 1946 earthquake and Tsunami of Nagua)

Simulation of inundation caused by a 5mt Run Up Tsunami using a Digital Elevation Model of the Sosua and Cabarete Shoreline

-Sosua River valley: 1 km inundation along the Sosua River valley
-POP Airport: partially flooded
-Playa Sosua:  flooded
-El Batey: coastal area  hit and partially flooded
-Los Charramicos:  coastal area partially hit
-Eastern Sosua: coastal area severely hit and partially flooded
-Cabarete: completely flooded

Simulation B: Destructive Earthquake and Tsunami

Magnitudo: 8.5 (stronger of the 1946 earthquake and Tsunami of Nagua)
Depth: 30km
Position: Hispaniola Trench 35km north of Puerto Plata Airport
Distance from the shoreline: 35k (21miles)
Tsunami Run Up: 10 meters stronger of the 1946 earthquake and Tsunami of Nagua)

Simulation of inundation caused by a 10mt Run Up Tsunami using a Digital Elevation Model of the Sosua and Cabarete Shoreline

-Sosua River valley: 2km inundation along the Sosua River valley (Sosua Abajo flooded)
-POP Airport: completely flooded
-Playa Sosua: completely flooded
-El Batey: coastal area  flooded
-Los Charramicos:  coastal area severely hit
-Eastern Sosua: partially flooded , coastal area severely hit and completly flooded
-Cabarete: completely flooded

Simulation C: Very Destructive Earthquake and Tsunami

Magnitudo: 9 (similar to the 2004 Sumatra earthquake and Indian Ocean Tsunami)
Depth: 30km
Position: Hispaniola Trench 35km north of Puerto Plata Airport
Distance from the shoreline: 35k (21miles)
Tsunami Run Up: 15 meters (similar to the 2004 Sumatra earthquake and Indian Ocean Tsunami)

Simulation of inundation caused by a 15mt Run Up Tsunami using a Digital Elevation Model of the Sosua and Cabarete Shoreline


-Sosua River valley: 2-3km inundation along the Sosua River valley (Sosua Abajo flooded)
-POP Airport: completely flooded
-Playa Sosua: completely flooded
-El Batey: completely  flooded
-Los Charramicos: severely hit and partially flooded
-Eastern Sosua: completely flooded up to  the cabarete-Puerto Plata road
-Cabarete: completely flooded

Simulation D: Very Destructive Earthquake and Tsunami

Magnitudo: 9+ (similar to the 2004 Sumatra earthquake and Indian Ocean Tsunami)
Depth: 30km
Position: Hispaniola Trench 35km north of Puerto Plata Airport
Distance from the shoreline: 35k (21miles)
Tsunami Run Up: 20 meters (similar to the 2004 Sumatra earthquake and Indian Ocean Tsunami)

Simulation of inundation caused by a 20 mt Run Up Tsunami using a Digital Elevation Model of the Sosua and Cabarete Shoreline


-POP Airport: completely flooded
-Playa Sosua: completely flooded including the cabarete-Puerto Plata road
-El Batey: completely  flooded
-Los Charramicos: completely flooded
-Eastern Sosua: completely flooded up to  the cabarete-Puerto Plata road
-Cabarete: completely flooded

NOAA Tsunami Animation

We hope that we are lucky enough not to witness such scenarios in our lifetime (and this may well be the case because of the low frequency of such events and because there are costal  areas such as Puerto Rico and Samanà that are much riskier than the Puerto Plata province): we know that the ONAMET is monitoring the tsunami risk in realtime and that the coastal towns will be informed in realtime of such risk and we know that local authorities have emergency planes in places and regular drills are organized to test the local communities' readiness. Education, readiness and informaton will save many lifes if this would ever happen. This is why we prepared this study and simulation, not to generate fear but to help informing the communities of Sosua and Cabarete collaborating with the praiseworthy efforts of the local authorities .


Análisis de riesgos de desastres y vulnerabilidades en la República Dominicana”,  March 2009 Natalia Gómez de Travesedo, Paola Saenz Ramírez

Es possible que ocurra un sismo catastrofico en Republica Dominicana?",  Hector O’Reilly Pérez

"Tsunami Probability in the Caribbean Region", tom PArsons, Eric Geist

Caribbean Tsunami Warning System” Christa G. von Hillebrandt-Andrade

"Tsunamis in the Caribbean? It's Possible",  Shelley Dawicki, March, 2005

"Assessment of the tsunamigenic potential along the Northern Caribbean Margin", George Pararas-Carayannis, 2010

"Coulomb stress evolution in Northeastern Caribbean over the past 250 years due to coseismic, postseismic and interseismic deformation",  Ali Syed Tabrez  Andrew M. Freed  Eric Calais  David M. Manaker  William R. McCann, 2008

"Historical perspective on seismic hazard to Hispaniola and the northeast Caribbean region", Uri S. ten Brink,William H. Bakun, and Claudia H. Flores 2011

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Playa Sosua 1910-2018

The new beach formed by the abnormal waves of March 5 and March 6, 2018 where once stood the pier...

Playa Sosua

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Storm waves at Playa Sosua

On Monday and Tuesday (March 5 and March 6) massive waves hit the North Coast of the Dominican Republic:  Sosua, Puerto Plata and Cabarete were not spared....

This picture of Puerto Plata Airport posted by Jean Suriel on Twitter became viral...massive waves flooding the airport of Puerto Plata.

The storm was caused by cold wind and low pressure from the North Atlantic Ocean:

North Winds caused by the low pressure area in the North Atlantic are hitting the  DR North Coast

The COE (Centro de Operaciones de Emergencia) has prohibited swimming in the beaches of Sosua, Cabarete , Boca de Yascica because of the danger caused by abnormal waves.

The waves hitting Playa Sosua has moved a lot of sand from the Weast end of the beach to its East end: Playa Sosua West has lost a lot of sand and the rocks are now exposed while a new beach formed on Playa Sosua East in front of Hotel Bellamar and Hotel Victorian House. This is likely to be a temporary phenomenon, normal currents should reshape the beach in the coming weeks.

Playa Sosua: sand movements 

The new beach forming East of Playa Sosua (photo by Rissatory Arte)

Damages and erosion West of Playa Sosua

Be prudent and stay safe for the next couple of days: no swimming still in force.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The lost lagoon of Sosua: El Canal

When I was preparing the article about the history of Sosua I reviewed several old maps of Hispaniola: according to some of these old maps there used to be a lagoon in Sosua, a lagoon in Cabarete and a larger one east of Sabaneta de Yasica.
The map where these lakes are more evident is a 1905 map by Casimiro de Moya (a Dominican historian, writer and politician 1849-1915):

old sosua map

In this map there are three lagoons:
1-Lagoon  of Orì east of Sabaneta de Yasica
2-Lagoon of Cabarete 
3-Lagoon El Canal east of Sosua between Sosua and Cabarete

While seasonal remains of a lagoon can still be seen just west of Cabarete what happen to the lagoon "El Canal" just outside of Sosua? The toponym "El Canal" is still there even on recent maps such the Bing Map below, however the lagoon is no longer there:

sosua map

El Canal is how a  distric of Sosua is marked on the map: it's the district os some well known  residencial communities such as Perla Marina, Sea Horse Ranch and those near Laguna beach (Playa Laguna).  The toponym "playa Laguna" may well be another clue that there once stood a lagoon.
As incredible as it may sound, in an area of Sosua where we are now used to see condos, villas and hotels, just 120  years ago there was a long and narrow lagoon called "Laguna El Canal".

To test this hypotesis I used digital elevation data from the Shuttle Radar Topography mission to obtain a 3D digital elevation model of the flatlands between Sosua and Cabarete: these data support the idea that the lost lagoon was indeed between Laguna beach and Perla Marina as that position is consistent with the presence of a small hydrographic basin ending in a flat and low area where a lagoon may have formed between the coast and the higher hills behind :

sosua 3d digital elevation model
3d Digital Elevation Model SOSUA

sosua 3d digital elevation model
3d Digital Elevation Model: tentative position of El Canal lagoon Sosua

sosua cabarete 3d digital elevation model
3d Digital Elevation Model:Sosua-Cabarete region

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sosua yesterday and today

In the historical time laps sequencebelow: the pier of Sosua as it appeared in different moments of Sosua history:
1910 - the pier of Sosua used to load bananas
1960 - remains of the pier of Sosua, a small rural town
2018-remains of the pier of Sosua and in the background the hotels of today's Sosua, an international tourist destination

Sosua pier

Friday, February 9, 2018

The history of Sosua

We have prepared an article dedicated to the history of Sosua, it can be found in our Sosua Information section linked as Sosua history with historical information about the formation of the small village of Sosua around the Boston Fruit company (later United Fruit) banana's plantation.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

When the marines landed in Sosua 1904

Very little is known about the early days of Sosua when a small village grew around the United Fruit Compaany bananas plantation. Searching historical records and libraries I found a forgotten story about Sosua which I think it is worth to be told.
On November 24, 1903 the governor of Puerto Plata Carlos Felipe Morales Languasco became the 30th president of the Dominican Republic after the so call "Unionists' Revolution" managed to overthrow Alejandro Woss y Gil

Carlos Felipe Morales Languasco

Shortly after the election a group of the Jimenistas (followers of Juan Isidro Jimenez) rose against the new president  and a new armed uprising started. President Morales was supported by the United States. The United States had significant interests and fixed investments in the Dominican Republic and owned  a significant portion of the defaulted Dominican foreign debt. A US company, the famous United Fruit Company owned a huge amount of land and a bananas plantation in Sosua. According to the company official records United Fruits in 1904 owned 18,203 acres of land in Sosua (the bananas plantation was as large as 3,480 acres), the total book value of such United Fruit co. investments in Sosua (land, houses, buildings, machinery,railways)  was 523,480 USD in 1904 (I would say something equivalent, more or less, to today's 500 millions USD).

With such an important investment to protect in Sosua in December 1903 United Fruit Company was very worried about the uprising against the US friendly president Morales, therefore it started to actively lobby in Washington to do something about it: after all United Fruit Company was the first multinational company with so much power to be able to influence the policies of a government.

On December 26 1903 fightings between troops of Morales and followers of Jimenez started in Sosua on United Fruit's property....from the New York Times "...without notice houses were looted, lives of United States citizens absolutely disregarded, women and children had to flee for safety: property destroyed..."

NYT marines sosua 1904
NYT first page of January 7, 1904 describing the marines' landing in Sosua

In the first days of January 1904 the US administartion dispatched a Navy steam ship to the North Coast of the Dominican Republic: in the morning of January 3, 1904 the USS Detroit commanded by Commander Dillingham went to Sosua, a marine detachment led by Ensign C.H. Fischer was landed from the USS Detroit to protect the American interests. One officer, sixteen marines, a Colt automatic gun and steam launch remained in Sosua to prevent further fighting till January 15th 1904.

uss detroit marines sosua
The USS Detroit , steam vessel 1904

old sosua
Old Bay of Sosua were the manìrines landing took place

 Albert Caldwell Dillingham (1848-1925) commander of the USS Detroit in 1904 when the marines landed in Sosua

The colt machine gun which was used in Sosua by the marines was of the type known as "potato digger", it was the first machine gun adopted  by the US military

Preliminary data for the Dominican Republic economy for 2017

The central bank of the Dominican Republic BCRD has just released the preliminary yearly figures for the Dominican Economy in 2017: the Dominican GDP growth was 4.6% with the strongest sectors being financial services and  hotels, bars and restaurants:

While growth figures were good but not as good as in 2016 it must be noted that during 2017 the external sector improved significantly with a much lower current account deficit and and improving balance of payments thanks to strong dollars inflows:

The strong inflows of hard currency from tourism, remittances, and direct inversions have been a key factor in the improvment of the Dominican Balance of Payment which resulted in an increase of the central bank reserves. The higher the level of the central bank reserves from 6.047 billion USD to 6.78 billions USD:  the higher the ability of the central bank to contain potential external shoks.

Friday, January 26, 2018

2017 Airport Arrivals: Dominican Republic and Puerto Plata

With the recent release of December 2017 airport arrivals in the Dominican republic we have now a complete picture for 2017: it was yet another year of solid growth: no residents (basically torists) arriving in the Dominican airports were 6,187,542 up 3.83% from 2016. The Dominican Republic keep growing as preferred Caribbean touristic destination.

Total Non Residents Arrivals in the Dominican Airports per year

The number of non residents arrivals at the airport of Puerto Plata, a very good proxy for the trend of tourism for Sosua, for the whole 2017 was 472,705 up a solid 7.7% from 2016, below a breakdown of these arrivals by month for 2017 vs. 2016