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Japan tsunami is small compared to five of world's biggest tsunamis

A tsunami triggered by a 8.9-magnitude earthquake swamped Japan's northeast coast Friday, picking up cars, ships and houses as it surged as much as three miles inland. The wave generated by the quake, whose epicenter was 80 miles offshore of Sendai, was as high as 30 feet in some spots. There is no official death toll yet, but Japanese officials reported that as many as 300 people have been killed in the city of Sendai alone.

But despite the alarming footage of entire houses moving across land, this most recent tsunami was relatively small in size compared to others throughout history. Here are the five of the worst tsunamis on record.

This aerial photo released by Indonesian Presidential Office shows a tsunami-ravaged beach on Pagai island, in Mentawai Islands, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 28.
Abror Rizki/Indonesian Presidential Office/AP Photo
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1. 1883 Krakatoa tsunami

In 1883, the volcanic island of Krakatoa erupted in Indonesia. The blast destroyed two-thirds of the island and sent 130-foot-high waves surging across the Indian Ocean, killing 36,500 people from Indonesia to India.

According to the US National Geophysical Data Center, an air pressure wave from the blast traveled around the Earth seven times.

“Small sea level oscillations from Krakatau's major explosion and collapse were observed or recorded by tide gauges around the world, as far away as Hawaii, the American West Coast, South America, and even as far away as the English Channel in France and England," Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis wrote in a research paper on the tsunami.

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