Originally Answered: What happens if a tsunami hit MIT?
This may be what you are thinking about.
"Many survivors believed they were being punished for impiety and that more waves were imminent. One 15-year-old girl asked why eyewitnesses had described the tsunami as "an infernal mountain of water with fire sparkles flying" -- a description consistent with the severe burns observed among many of the dead.
Synolakis says the rapid rise in sea level occasioned by the tsunami may have enhanced the bioluminescence of dinoflagellates and other glowing organisms commonly found in the waters of the South Pacific. "The tsunami occurred about an hour after sundown," he explains. "In the darkness, the organic bioluminescence may well have caused the water to sparkle like fire."
He says the burns seen on bodies resulted from friction when people were dragged over hundreds of meters of sand, debris and trees, and from the sunburn as they lay decomposing after the disaster, giving the appearance of death by scalding.
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I have also read something about a scalding Tsunami:
…black scalding waves that gave some tsunami survivors third degree burns – they say that in certain areas the magma from the underground volcano which caused the earthquake which caused the tsunami heated the water above 100ºC
But I need to look for a link which will explain it.
Here is a nice link which talks a lot about the problems caused by this disaster and the aid program set up to help.
And here's a link to a geology page which explain the mechanics behind a Tsunami.