Japan orders northeast residents to evacuate for major tsunami

14:18, February 28, 2010      

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Japan urged thousands of households in northeast to evacuate on Sunday for a major tsunami triggered by the powerful earthquake in Chile.

Major tsunami alert is issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) for the pacific coast of Aomori prefecture, coast of Miyagi and Iwate prefectures in northeast Japan, saying "very high tsunami" with waves up to 3 meters are expected in the areas, and "everyone near the coast must immediately evacuate to higher ground".

Iwate Prefecture's Kamaishi City urged 6,400 coastal households to evacuate. In Kesennuma, Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture, 13, 500 households were also urged to evacuate. Households in Aomori are also asked to evacuate.

Japan Railway East, a major trunk for Shinkansen services, has ben halted in coastal areas due to tsunami fears.

The Japan Coast Guard had urged ships operating near Iwate Prefecture to evacuate.

A major tsunami alert is a warning with the most intense level, according to the JMA. It is the first time in 17 years for Japan to issue a major tsunami alert.

Tsunami warnings are also issued for other areas along Japan's Pacific coastline from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

The tsunami is expected to hit Hokkaido and Izu-Ogasawara islands around 1 p.m, followed by other areas, it said on the public broadcaster NHK.

In May 1960, a tsunami struck the coasts of Hokkaido and the Sanriku region of Japan after a magnitude 9.5 quake in Chile, leaving around 140 people dead or missing.

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 8.8 struck near Concepcion in central Chile Saturday, killing so far at least 200 people.

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