Natural Hazards

, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 833–840 | Cite as

The 1979 nice airport tsunami: mapping of the flood in Antibes

  • Alexandre Sahal
  • Anne Lemahieu
Original Paper


On 16 October 1979, a tsunami of a local origin hits the French Riviera around Nice, France, killing 8 people and generating important economic losses. Its impact was felt from Hyères to Menton, France. The main effect of this tsunami was flooding in the neighborhoods of La Salis and La Garoupe, Antibes, France. A synthesis of unpublished reports written in the context of an administrative investigation was conducted. Various archives were also consulted (newspapers, fire and rescue unit reports, insurance reports, etc.), and a field survey was organized in 2009 to record testimonies from the inhabitants who witnessed the flood in La Salis, Antibes, the area where the effects of the tsunami were the greatest. A geo-database of the neighborhood of La Salis was built using available aerial imagery, land cover data and digital terrain models, to reconstruct the surface of the flooded area as it was in 1979 and as it is now. Comparing precise testimonies and the 1979 topographic information available allowed the authors to precisely map the flood and to deduce the runup values which reached 3.5 m locally, with a maximal distance of flooding of 150 m inland. This paper provides modelers with precious information about the extent of flooding and the time sequence in order to reconstitute the propagation and flooding of the 16 October 1979 tsunami. This information highlights the fact that the French Riviera is a low hazard, but high vulnerability area.


Tsunami Tsunami Mediterranean Sea 1979 Nice airport Antibes Mapping Geo-database 



This study was funded within the RiskNat program under contract ANR-08-RISKNAT-005-01/MAREMOTI. The authors would like to thank: The French Ministry for Culture and Communication and the Departmental Archives of the Alpes Maritimes for allowing access to unpublished reports. The various public-service offices of the city of Antibes, and especially the topographic survey office and Jean-Louis Secchini for his cooperation providing precious geographical data. Commandant Ricquier from the SDIS (Departmental Service for Fires and Rescue) of the Alpes-Maritimes for his support and for granting access to the archives of the fire station of Antibes. The fire and rescue unit of Antibes, and especially Commandant Imbert for making A.S. feel welcome despite the exceptional circumstances of their meeting, as well as for his support and advice in studying the station’s archives. The La Garoupe semaphore officers for their support and access to their archives. Mauro Tremolani, witness of the tsunami, who authorized the authors to publish his photograph of the tsunami. Pr. Franck Lavigne (Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne University) and Francois Schindelé (French Atomic Energy Agency) for reviewing this article. Miss Christa Teplicky who kindly corrected this article. And, last but not least, many thanks to all the witnesses who contributed to a better understanding of the 16 October 1979 tsunami by accepting to answer our numerous questions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire de Géographie PhysiqueUniversité Paris 1 Panthéon-SorbonneMeudon CedexFrance

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