Sunday, February 28, 2010

CNN: Japan gets first tsunami waves from Chile quake

Tsunami waves from the deadly 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile rippled across the Japanese coast on Sunday, but the initial ones did not appear large enough to cause damage.

Authorities urged residents to stay away because a second and third round of waves could gain strength. The first one, a 4-inch wave, hit Minami Torishima, according to the Japanese meteorological agency.

Minami Torishima is a small island in the Pacific Ocean.

An 11-inch wave was later recorded in the port of Nemuro, Hokkaido. It hit the port at 1:57 p.m. local time. Another 8-inch wave hit Hamanaka-cho, Hokkaido, at 2:05 p.m. local time.

Tens of thousands of residents evacuated Sunday morning from coastal Japan in anticipation of a possible tsunami after the earthquake.

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The northern part of the main island could be hit by a tsunami at least 9 feet high, according to the meteorological agency.

Sunday's alert was Japan's first major tsunami warning in more than 15 years, the agency reported. In 1960, a tsunami spawned by Chile's 1960 earthquake killed 140 people in Japan.

Check out the world's biggest earthquakes since 1900

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center on Saturday canceled warnings that initially covered the entire Pacific region.

Only Russia and Japan were under a widespread tsunami warning, the center said Sunday.

In the U.S. state of Hawaii, the cancellation occurred nearly two hours after the first waves came ashore. Coast Guard crews said they had found no significant damage to ports or waterways as a result of the tsunami.

But the tsunami center said some coastal areas may see small sea-level changes or unusual currents for the next few hours.

The cancellation "does not mean it is now safe to resume normal activities or re-enter evacuated shoreline areas," the tsunami center said. It said that county's civil defense agencies and local police departments would make those determinations.

"There was no assessment of any damage in any county, which is quite remarkable," said Gov. Linda Lingle. "It's just a wonderful day that nothing happened and no one was hurt or injured."

The warning was issued early Saturday after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile, killing more than 300 people. Government officials are expected to announce an updated death toll Sunday at 12 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET).

In Chile, tsunami waves came ashore along the coast shortly after the earthquake, U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Victor Sardina said.

The largest was 9 feet near the quake's epicenter, Sardina said.

Another 7.7-foot wave hit the Chilean town of Talcahuano, according to Eric Lau of the tsunami center.

On the island of Juan Fernandez -- 400 miles (643 km) off Chile's coast -- a large wave killed three people, Provincial Governor Ivan De La Maza said. At least 10 people are missing.

Navigational buoys in Ventura County, California, got minor damage as a result of a 2-foot surge and waves, according to the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center. The Ventura County Fire Department had a report of damage to a resident's dock from the surge.

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