Chilean quake-triggered tsunami spares well-prepared Asia-Pacific region

16:19, February 28, 2010      

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As the tsunami warnings were mostly canceled in the Asia-Pacific region except for Japan and no major damage or injuries were reported so far, the highlighted tsunami fighting drama in which countries in half the globe were involved came to an epilogue.

The great tsunami warning was first issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, U.S. within hours after a killer earthquake jolted Chile.

The quake, one of the world's most powerful in decades, rocked near Chilean city of Concepcion at 3:34 a.m. local time (0634 GMT) on Saturday, knocking down homes and hospitals and triggering a tsunami that rolled menacingly across the Pacific.

Fearful of a repeat of the great tsunami that hit South-east Asia off guard in 2004, in which more than 230,000 people were killed, countries and regions in the Asia-Pacific region were on high alert this time to fend off the catastrophe.

After investigating the possibility of a tsunami, New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Management, the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and the Japanese Meteorological Agency have issued warnings of different degrees respectively, instructing their residents in coastal areas to keep a keen eye on the developments and make necessary preparations.

The tsunami has hit the Marquesas islands in the north of French Polynesia on Sunday morning with waves up to four meters high.

A scientist told RFO radio in Papeete that the difference between the lowest and high watermark in Nuku Hiva has been measured at four meter.

Several waves have passed other islands in French Polynesia without causing any major damage.

RFO radio in Papeete reported that a wave less than one meter high has passed the eastern Gambier islands.

In Tonga, public radio warned people to seek higher ground, with crowds gathering in elevated areas.

A tsunami warning has been issued in the small Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. People have moved in to higher buildings as Tuvalu is quite flat and has no mountains.

A 50-cm tsunami wave has been reported by the Met Office in Samoa. There were no reports of damage or injuries. A roadblock was in place in Samoan capital of Apia to ensure all those who have been evacuated remain on higher ground.

In American Samoa, the capital of Pago Pago experienced three or four small surges and receding ocean which exposed rocks. There are no reports of damage, but the warning has not yet been lifted and people have been told to remain in their homes for the next 45 minutes, Radio New Zealand International reported.

Unusual tidal movement was also reported in parts of Poverty Bay, near New Zealand North Island's eastern coastal city of Gisborne, on Sunday.

The level of water has been falling in Gisborne harbor and the tide has been receding at Waikanae beach.

The Emergency Management Office in Gibsone confirmed the water has been receding and then returning.

Gisborne Controller Jon Davies told Radio New Zealand on Sunday that there had been a sudden drop of up to 1 meter in places.

As at 11:15 New Zealand local time Sunday (22:15 GMT Saturday), wave activity as reported on tsunami gauges appeared to have stabilized at the previously-reported levels.

It was about 1.0 meters at the Chatham Islands, 0.3 meters at East Cape, Napier, Castlepoint, Tauranga and North Cape, and 0.4 meters in Gisborne, said the Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Management in a press release.

Larger waves may follow the initial wave arrival times by 6 to 12 hours and there may also be strong surges and rapid rises in sea level in some places, the Civil Defense said.

Civil Defence said people in all coastal areas should stay away from beaches and out of all waterways.

The Port of Auckland was closed on Sunday and five ships were ordered to move into deep water until the threat of a tsunami passed.

In Australia, a 40 cm rise in sea levels at Norfolk Island and a 10 cm rise at Southport, in Tasmania have been observed on Sunday morning, Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center (JATWC) said.

New South Wales state and Queensland state are expected to see similar effects to sea conditions, which will accelerate tidal movements, the JATWC spokesman Alasdair Hainsworth says Sunday.

"It's unlikely there will be big waves but very significant variations in sea levels in a relatively short space of time, It's almost like the tide comes in and goes out in less than half an hour. So you can imagine the kind of currents and the potential danger to people in boats and also, more importantly, in the water. They could easily find themselves in very strong currents, very, very quickly." Hainsworth told Australian Associated Press.

Hundreds of residents in the east coast of Mindanao in southern Philippines moved to higher grounds due to the tsunami alert.

Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Amend Balio told Xinhua Sunday they are confirming where residents in other parts of the Philippines had been evacuated.

Big waves hit the coastal area in the village of Kidalapong, forcing at least a hundred people to evacuate to higher grounds, quoted Victorina Mendez, police chief of Malita in Davao Del Sur, as saying.

Mayor Michelle Rabat in Mati City in Davao Oriental said the city's disaster teams and the Coast Guard, have been put on alert.

The first wave of the tsunami triggered by the powerful earthquake in Chile hit Japan's outlying islands at around 12:48 a. m. local time, (0348 GMT) Sunday, but the initial waves were just 10 cm high.

The waves first hit a small island of Ogasawara islands, 1,950 km south of Tokyo, public broadcaster NHK reported. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) predicted it will soon reach other parts of the Pacific coastline of the country.

Waves of up to 30 cm were seen in the eastern coast of Hokkaido at around 2 p.m. There had been no reports of damage so far.

Local governments had urged thousands of households in northeast Japan to evacuate, where the waves are expected to be more than 3 meters high.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama appealed to people not to go near to the coastal areas and stay in the shelters until the evacuation orders are lifted.

"We must not drop our guard and please don't go near the coast, " Hatoyama said on TV.

Major tsunami alert is issued by the 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".

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

An official of the weather agency's earthquake and tsunami observation section said in the NHK that the agency may have to keep the warnings in place for a long time because "the second and third waves could be bigger than the first waves."

In May 1960, a tsunami struck the coasts of Hokkaido and the Sanriku region of Japan after the huge M9.5 quake in Chile, leaving around 140 people dead or missing.

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