High waves hit Hawaii islands

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said Kauai was the first of the Hawaiian islands hit by the tsunami. Water rushed ashore in Honolulu, swamping the beach in Waikiki and surging over the break wall in the world-famous resort but stopping short of the area’s high-rise hotels.

Waves about 3 feet high were recorded on Oahu and Kauai, and officials warned that the waves would continue and could become larger.

Roadways and beaches were empty as the tsunami struck the state, which had hours to prepare. Residents in coastal areas of Hawaii were sent to refuge areas at community centres and schools while tourists in Waikiki were moved to higher floors of their hotels.

People waited in long lines stocking up on gas, bottled water, canned food and generators, and officials told residents to stock up on water and fill their cars with gas.

The tsunami, spawned by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan, slammed the eastern coast of Japan, sweeping away boats, cars, homes and people as widespread fires burned out of control. It raced across the Pacific at 500 mph—as fast as a jetliner—and likely won’t change speed until it hits a large area of land, said Kanoa Koyanagi, a geophysicist for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Waves are predicted to hit the western coast of the United States between 11 am and 11:30 am EST on Friday. Evacuations were ordered in parts of Washington and Oregon. Residents in parts of northern California evacuated their homes on Friday.  The tsunami could reach 6 feet when it hits parts of the northern California coast, a state emergency agency spokesman said.

Authorities in Oregon advised coastal residents to evacuate and schools were to be closed along the coast.

It was the second time in a little over a year that Hawaii and the US West coast faced the threat of a massive tsunami.

Proper measures

Scientists acknowledged they overstated the threat but defended their actions, saying they took the proper steps and learned the lessons of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed thousands of people who didn’t get enough warning.

On Friday, the Honolulu International Airport remained open but seven or eight jets bound for Hawaii have turned around, including some originating from Japan, the state Department of Transportation said. All harbours are closed and vessels were being ordered to leave the harbour.

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