Tsunami grazes Americas but impact light

The tsunami lost much of its energy as it moved thousands of miles (km) across the Pacific Ocean, although governments took no chances and ordered large-scale evacuations of coastal areas, ports and refineries.

Despite the power of Japan’s biggest-ever quake that killed at least 1,300 people, the tsunami waves were relatively benign as they rolled into the Americas, causing only isolated flooding, and fears of a catastrophe proved unfounded.

The tsunami swept past Chile’s remote Easter Island in the South Pacific, generating swells but no major waves, and there was little impact when they made landfall on Chile’s coast.

But the sea later flooded as far as 330 feet inland in Dichato and Talcahuano, some 310 miles south of the capital Santiago and near the epicenter of the massive 8.8 magnitude quake that struck Chile in February 2010.

“We call on people to stay on high ground and keep away from coastal areas,” Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter said. “There have been a series of (flooding) incidents along the coast.”

Strong waves also lashed northern Chile, but the government had lifted a tsunami warning for Easter Island, he said.

Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, a wildlife sanctuary and popular tourist spot, suffered some damage to infrastructure, and several harbors in California were hit.Peru, which evacuated thousands, was largely unaffected.

US harbours smashed
About 35 boats and most of the harbour docks were damaged in Crescent City near the California border with Oregon, where waves were more than 6 feet. Santa Cruz south of San Francisco sustained about $2 million in damages to docks and vessels, emergency management officials said.

Rescue services were searching for a 25-year-old man who was swept out to sea while standing on a sandbar at the mouth of the Klamath River in California.

The port of Brookings-Harbor, the busiest recreation port on the Oregon coast, was largely destroyed, said operations manager Chris Cantwell. “Right now we are in the middle of a big mess,” he said. “The surge pulled some (boats) out to sea, about a dozen sank and we’ve got boats everywhere sitting on top of one another and all over the place.”

In Hawaii, 3,800 miles from Japan, the main airports on at least three of the major islands — Maui, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii — were shut down as a precaution on Friday, when the US Navy ordered all warships in Pearl Harbor to remain in port to support rescue missions as needed.

No injuries or property damage were reported after a series of four tsunami waves hit the Hawaiian island of Oahu, said John Cummings, a spokesman for emergency management in Honolulu. The tsunami warning for Hawaii was later lifted.

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