Forecasters have lifted a tsunami warning issued for the US Pacific state of Hawaii in the wake of a major earthquake off the coast of Canada that had triggered the tidal wave.
“Based on all available data the tsunami threat has decreased and is now at the advisory level and not expected to increase,” the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center announced early Sunday morning.
Hawaiian authorities had ordered at least 100,000 people on the island state to move to higher ground.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the first tsunami wave on Saturday night was three feet high and less forceful than expected. Some forecasts had predicted a wave of up to six feet high.
“The tsunami arrived about when we expected it should,” Senior Geophysicist Gerard Fryer told reporters at a news conference, saying: “I was expecting it to be a little bigger.”
The tsunami was the result of a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that hit islands off the west coast of Canada’s British Columbia province.
The epicentre of the tremor, which occurred on Saturday at 8:04 pm (0304 GMT Sunday) was located 139km south of the town of Masset, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said the quake triggered a tsunami “that could cause damage along the coastline of all islands in the state of Hawaii.”
It said “urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property.”
Shelly Kunishige from Hawaii State Civil Defence told Al Jazeera that law enforcement forces were evacuating areas along the coastline to get residents out before they too evacuated. Outdoor sirens went off to alert people of the approaching tsunami.
“We do annual tsunami exercises and drills so we are continuing to undertake the same types of protocols,” Kunishige said.
“We’ve been hearing from Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre that waves could be as high as two metres in certain areas, which could be very devastating.”
Meanwhile, a tsunami warning for southern Alaska and northern British Columbia has been downgraded to an advisory
The initial earthquake shook 40km south of Sandspit, British Columbia on the Haida Gwaii archipelago, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. The USGS said it was followed by a 5.8 magnitude aftershock several minutes later.
The US Coast Guard in Alaska said it was trying to warn everyone with a boat on the water to prepare for a potential tsunami.
Lieutenant Bernard Auth of the Juneau Command Centre said the Coast Guard was also working with local authorities to alert people in coastal towns to take precautions.
‘Everything was moving’
Jeff King, editor of the Haida Gwaii Observer, told Al Jazeera it was the biggest earthquake that he had ever felt while living in the area and that local residents were leaving their homes in areas vulnerable to tsunamis.
“There are a lot of residents on the islands that when a warning is issued need to get to higher ground.” he said.
“And in several communities that are most vulnerable … they have driven up to higher ground [about] 1,000 feet above sea level.”
Urs Thomas, Port Clements Golden Spruce hotel operator, said there was no warning before everything began moving inside and outside the hotel. He said it last about three minutes.
“It was a pretty good shock,” Thomas, 59, said. “I looked at my boat outside. It was rocking. Everything was moving. My truck was moving.”