Tsunami waves hit Pacific regions after Chile quake

Last Updated: Sunday, February 28, 2010 - 15:19

Zeenews Bureau

Tokyo: Tsunami waves of up to 1.5 meters (5 ft) hit far-flung Pacific regions from the Russian far east and Japan to New Zealand`s remote Chatham Islands on Sunday after a massive earthquake struck Chile, killing more than 300 people.

Authorities ordered hundreds of thousands of residents in Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines and Russia`s Kamchatka to evacuate after Saturday`s Chile quake, one of the world`s most powerful in a century, but there were no immediate reports of damage.

In Japan, a 1.45 meter tsunami hit the fishing port of Otsuchi on the north Pacific coast, Kyodo news agency said. Smaller waves hit a swathe of the country from the small island of Minamitori 1,950 km (1,200 miles) south of Tokyo to Hokkaido island in the north, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Japanese officials have ordered or advised some 540,000 households along the country`s Pacific coast to evacuate and said later waves could be much bigger.

"The full-fledged tsunami waves are starting to arrive," University of Tokyo professor Yoshinobu Tsuji told NHK public TV.

"This is not the last one," he said.

It was Japan`s first major tsunami warning in 17 years and only the fourth since 1952, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

"Carelessness could be the biggest enemy. In the past, even if the waves were not so big, there has been great damage with 2-meter high tsunami," Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told reporters.

Train services were halted in many areas along the Pacific coast and some highways were closed.

Police cars and fire trucks patrolled coastal roads and fishing boats, seeking to avoid any tsunami, headed out to sea under gray skies, with snow flurries in some areas.

The area that could be hit hardest, where around 140 people died in a previous tsunami 50 years ago, has many small harbours that could concentrate the force of a tsunami.

"The waves could climb up the land, so for real safety you should evacuate to a place several times higher than the predicted height of the waves," JMA official Yasuo Sekita told a news conference.

The agency said the first wave might not be the biggest and that the warning could remain in effect for a long time.

The tsunami initially raised fears that the Pacific could fall victim to the type of killer waves that killed 230,000 people in the Indian Ocean in 2004 the morning after Christmas. During that disaster, there was little to no warning and much confusion about the impending waves.

Officials said the opposite occurred after the Chile quake: They overstated their predictions for the size of the waves and the threat.

"We expected the waves to be bigger in Hawaii, maybe about 50 percent bigger than they actually were," said Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist for the warning centre. "We`ll be looking at that."

But Japan, fearing the tsunami could gain force as it moved closer, put all of its eastern coastline on tsunami alert on Sunday and ordered hundreds of thousands of residents in low-lying areas to seek higher ground as waves generated by the Chilean earthquake raced across the Pacific at hundreds of miles (kilometres) per hour.

Russia

Tsunami waves measuring up to 80 centimetres (30 inches) hit Russia`s Pacific coast today after the Chile earthquake, causing little damage in the largely uninhabited region, officials said.

According to the Tsunami Centre on Russia`s Pacific island of Sakhalin, the highest wave of 80 centimetres was recorded on the southeast of the Kamchatka peninsula, while waves also hit the Kuril islands chain.

"This is the eighth wave that has hit the (Kamchatka) peninsula, there will be others," a spokeswoman for the centre was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.
New Zealand

A tsunami of 0.5 metres hit New Zealand`s Chatham Islands, 700 km southeast of the mainland, on Sunday morning as the country was put on a full-scale alert following the Chile earthquake.

The National Crisis Management Centre said the tsunami, moving across the Pacific at 800 km an hour, could produce waves of up to one-metre by the time it reaches New Zealand`s main islands.

People in all coastal areas were warned to stay off beaches and keep out of rivers and estuaries.

Police started evacuating residents from beach areas in the city of Gisborne and parts of small communities on the North Island`s East Cape.

People living in low areas of the Banks Peninsula, near Christchurch, in the South Island, began leaving their homes for higher ground in the wake of predictions of waves up to three metres reaching the area later in the morning, Radio New Zealand reported.

Australia

The Bureau of Meteorology reported a tsunami measuring 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) off Norfolk Island, about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) northeast of Sydney.

There were no immediate reports of damage.

Hawaii

A tsunami triggered by the Chilean earthquake hit the shores of Hawaii, which was earlier placed under tsunami alert.

The Pacific island was, however, spared of any major disaster as the waves were not as deadly as scientists had predicted.

Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, was quoted as saying: "We dodged a bullet." The centre, later, cancelled the tsunami alert.

In French Polynesia, tsunami waves damaged parts of the coast but there were no reports of major destruction or victims. Meanwhile, Japan has issued a warning of a "major" tsunami of upto three metres along its northern coasts.

(With Agencies’ inputs)



First Published: Sunday, February 28, 2010 - 15:19

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