Widespread tsunami warning after Japan quake

Reuters – March 11, 2011

A tsunami warning has been issued for the entire Pacific basin except the 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, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.

Taiwan’s coast guard has begun evacuating its east coast, which is not heavily populated. Waves about 50cm 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 2am local time (1200 GMT). The first tsunami wave was expected to reach Hawaii at 3am local time.

Waves were expected to hit Pacific island Guam, 2,400km south of Japan, at 7pm 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.

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.

By 0800 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 centre said. “The threat can continue for many hours as multiple waves arrive.”


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