Tsunami warnings send tens of thousands fleeing homes

Waves as high as 10 metres were generated by the quake in north-eastern Japan, but in other areas, they were smaller than warnings issued by tsunami alert centres and weather bureaus. They were recorded at 60 cm in the Philippines and 10 cm in Indonesia and Taiwan.

Small Pacific island nations were of particular concern because many lie lower than the height of the waves that were predicted.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the first tsunami measuring 60 cm hit the eastern coast of the northern province of Cagayan. No damage or injuries were immediately reported.

The institute said it monitored up to four tsunami waves in the hour since the first one struck and would continue to monitor the coast overnight.

It had placed 19 provinces along the entire east coast of the Philippines under a tsunami alert, prompting the evacuations of more than 10,000 people.

Sea travel on the eastern side of the Philippines was suspended, stranding hundreds of passengers in affected ports, the coast guard said.

In Indonesia, a 10-cm tsunami was recorded on the island of Halmahera just after dusk, said Fauzi, head of the Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning Centre.

A 40-cm tsunami was detected on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, but there was no information from the Papua region on the Indonesian half of New Guinea island, said Fauzi, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name.

Indonesia's meteorology agency had warned that a tsunami could hit the Maluku Islands, of which Halmahera is a part; North Sulawesi province; and the easternmost Papua region. Thousands of people fled their homes as a result.

Papua New Guinea's government told coastal residents in the north to move to higher ground after issuing a tsunami warning until 2 a.m. (1600 GMT), saying initially that waves 2 to 3 metres high could hit.

"So far, there is no sign of big waves," Gerard van Gramberg with the World Vision aid organisation said from the capital, Port Moresby. "Sea levels rose only slightly."
In eastern Russia, more than 10,000 people were evacuated, but President Dmitry Medvedev expressed his condolences to Japan and offered help after the danger had passed there.

Taiwan was spared after a nervous President Ma Ying-jeou ordered the formation of a cabinet-level emergency centre to prepare for the tidal wave.

The Central Weather Bureau lifted the tsunami alert at 6.40 p.m. (1040 GMT) after measuring the waves reaching the island at up to 10 cm, a bureau official said.
Tsunami warnings stretched from Japan and Russia to the coast all along the Americas and Pacific island in between after Japan's largest quake on record struck at 2.46 p.m. (0545 GMT).

Waves generated by the quake swept away people, cars, boats, crops and buildings there. From 200 to 300 bodies were found alone off the coast of the city of Sendai near the quake's epicentre, police said.

The National Weather Service in the US issued a tsunami warning that stretched from southern California to the border of Oregon and Washington states and took in the coasts of Hawaii and Alaska.

Large waves generated by the Japan quake had reached Hawaii Friday, but the  National Weather Service said no destructive tsunami was expected.

A tsunami watch was issued for Canada's western coast, and the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center extended its tsunami warning to as far as Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.

The National Weather Service said people living in the tsunami warning areas should move to higher ground because the waves were expected to cause widespread inundation that could continue several hours after the arrival of the initial wave.
It issued tsunami advisories for Washington state and Southern California, including Los Angeles and San Diego, warning people there to stay out of the water because dangerous currents and waves were expected.

The centre warned that a tsunami could be a series of waves, the time between different waves could be five minutes to an hour and the first wave might not be the largest.

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