Friday, March 11, 2011

Widespread tsunami warning issued after Japan quake

Courtesy Economic Times

SINGAPORE: A tsunami warning has been issued for the entire Pacific basin except mainland United States and Canada following a huge earthquake that hit Japan on Friday, the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. The warning includes Hawaii and extends from Mexico down to South American countries on the Pacific, the center said.

Among the countries for which a tsunami warning is in effect are: Russia , Taiwan , the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji , Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica , Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. Australia and New Zealand, which had been on an initial warning list, were later removed. The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre confirmed there was no tsunami threat.

Indonesia, which bore the brunt of a huge tsunami in 2004 when 170,000 people were killed in its Aceh province, said it expected tsunami waves could hit its eastern areas North Sulawesi, Papua and the Moluccas at around 1135 GMT.Taiwan's coast guard has begun evacuating its east coast, which is not heavily populated. Waves about 50 cm (20 inches) high are expected to reach the island's north and east coasts later on Friday, its central weather bureau said.

Hawaii's civil defense agency ordered all coastal areas, including the main tourist hub Honolulu, evacuated by 2 a.m. local time (1200 GMT). The first tsunami wave was expected to reach Hawaii at 3 a.m. local time.Waves were expected to hit the Pacific island of Guam, 2,400 km (1,500 miles) south of Japan, at 7 p.m. local time (1100 GMT). Beaches had been cleared there, and hotels were moving guests to rooms on higher floors, while in the nearby Northern Mariana Islands, all residents were ordered to evacuate to higher grounds.

Ocean waves up to 6 feet (2 meters) above normal sea level were detected by deep-ocean gauges near Wake island, Midway and Guam in the North Pacific, said Chip McCreary, a spokesman for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Papua New Guinea has issued a tsunami watch for its northern provinces effective at 9 p.m. local time (1100 GMT).
"By the time it reaches our shores, the wave will be between half a metre and one metre high," said Andrew Oaego, officer in charge of operations at the National Disaster Center in Port Moresby.
The tsunami is higher than some of the Pacific islands it could wash over, the Red Cross in Geneva said, warning that developing countries in the Asia Pacific region were particularly vulnerable to tsunami damage.
The biggest earthquake to hit Japan in 140 years struck the northeast coast on Friday, triggering a 10-metre tsunami that swept away everything in its path, including houses and cars. At least 22 people were killed in the quake and tsunami. By 1015 GMT there had been no reports of a serious tsunami hitting anywhere beyond Japan.

"A tsunami is a series of waves and the first wave may not be the largest," the center said. "The threat can continue for many hours as multiple waves arrive."

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