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Asia-Pacific
Tsunami fears abate in Japan
Asia-Pacific region escapes unscathed despite warnings following the Chilean earthquake.
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2010 11:25 GMT
The feared deadly waves expected in the
Pacific failed to materialise [AFP]

Tsunami fears in Japan have abated but not before thousands of people were ordered to evacuate their homes following an 8.8 magnitude earthquake off Chile's coast.

The initial waves were small on Sunday and destructive waves elsewhere across the Pacific did not materialise.

Japan evacuated more than 320,000 people as the tsunami sent waves up to 1.20 metres high along its long Pacific coastline. Seawater swells inundated buildings in several harbours.

But there were no immediate reports of injuries or major property damage.

Japan had put all of its eastern coastline on tsunami alert. Authorities had warned coastal communities to stay on high alert and keep clear of the shore as more powerful tsunami waves could follow.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said in a statement that the tsunami warning issued by it "is now cancelled for all countries".

Japan's meteorological agency had cautioned that waves of up to three metres could hit the northern areas of Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi, but the first tsunami wave to strike, in northern Hokkaido, was just 30cm high.

"Fisherman are being asked to go back to the shore, ships are being asked to stop operating," Fadi Salameh, reporting for Al Jazeera from Tokyo, said before the tsunami reached Japanese shores.

"We've seen images of police cars and firefighters going around the cities and asking people to go to the shelters and evacuate to at least five-metre-high areas."

Fears unfounded

Following Chile's earthquake, in which at least 300 people were killed, the world girded for a repeat of the carnage that caught the world off-guard in Asia in 2004.

Warnings were issued for across the Pacific from Latin America to the Pacific Rim nations of New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia following the earthquake.

But the feared deadly waves failed to materialise.

Tsunami waves measuring up to 90cm hit Russia's Pacific coast and the authorities cancelled warnings as the threat of major damage subsided.

The highest wave of 90cm was recorded on the southeast of the Kamchatka peninsula, the Tsunami Centre on Russia's Pacific island of Sakhalin said, while smaller waves also hit the Kuril islands chain.

No serious damage

Waves up to 1.5 metres high hit New Zealand's coast on Sunday, but there were no reports of serious damage.

A four-metre high wave hit Hiva Oa, part of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, on Saturday but there were no casualties, the high commissioner said.

By the time the tsunami hit Hawaii - a full 16 hours after the earthquake - officials had spent the morning ringing emergency sirens, blaring warnings from aeroplanes and ordering residents to higher ground.

But waters receded from Hawaii's shore at around 11am local time (22:00 GMT) on Saturday and the alert was lifted.

Warning dropped

Earlier on Sunday, Alasdair Hainsworth, a spokesman for the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre, told Al Jazeera Japan and Russia were could expect to be the worst hit.

"The surges that we've seen through Australia have been in the order of 10-20cm and moving up towards 40cm around Norfolk Island, which is just to the north east of New Zealand," he said.

"As one progresses further north into the central Pacific islands, we are seeing waves of around about 1.5-2 metres, but the main focus of the energy that was triggered by the earthquake in Chile is unfortunately directly north westward," he said.

"That is why Japan and southeastern Russia are at grave risk of significant tsunamis moving into that area."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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