Tsunami developments in Western Pacific
The U.S. West Coast is braced for a possible tidal wave set off by Friday's massive earthquake in Japan.
Fri, Mar 11, 2011 at 10:16 AM
EVACUATIONS: The biggest quake to hit Japan struck the northeast coast Friday, triggering a 10-meter tsunami that swept away everything in its path and caused thousands of people to evacuate. (Photo: shibuya246/Flickr)
A tsunami warning extended to most of the Pacific basin Friday after the massive earthquake off Japan. Following are developments in the Western Pacific.
The first signs of a tsunami washed up on the shores of Hawaii early Friday, as waves steadily rose over southern beaches on the island of Oahu. NBC reported there was no damage to U.S. Navy ships and piers from the first wave.
Civil defense officials ordered coastal areas evacuated, including Waikiki Beach, the tourist hub in Honolulu. Police with bullhorns urged residents to move to higher ground.
Lines for gasoline stretched for blocks, and people rushed to stores to stock up on emergency supplies and water. Downtown Honolulu and Waikiki were packed with motorists trying to leave for higher ground and for shelters set up by the state.
The main airports were shut down as a precaution and the Navy ordered all warships in Pearl Harbor to remain in port to support rescue missions as needed.
The tsunami could reach 6 feet when it hits parts of the northern California coast and force some evacuations, a state emergency agency spokesman said.
"There are some evacuations going on in Del Norte and San Mateo," counties, said Jordan Scott, a spokesman for the California Emergency Management Agency.
Del Norte is the northernmost California coastal county, while San Mateo is just south of San Francisco and includes much of Silicon Valley. However, the technology center is well inland.
Canada issued tsunami advisories for parts of British Columbia. The government said it believed a low-level tsunami had been generated that could affect buildings on the coast or create strong currents in harbors and isolated coastal areas. Local governments were advised to immediately evacuate marinas, beaches and other areas below the normal high tide mark.
Guam appeared to have emerged unscathed and the tsunami warning was lifted with no visible signs of a wave. Authorities had ordered evacuations in low-lying areas and advised tourists in hotels to take shelter on the sixth floor and above.
High waves were expected to hit Baja California peninsula in northern Mexico at around 8:44 a.m. Authorities temporarily closed beaches in the popular tourist destination.
In Mazatlan, in Sinaloa state, shops were shutting and the coastal road was closed to cars. Some communities were being evacuated.
The southern state of Oaxaca closed three ports, including the oil exporting terminal of Salinas Cruz. Six empty tankers were ordered to move away from the coast. State oil-company Pemex reported no problems at its coastal oil operations.
Governments in Central America were on alert. In Honduras, the police and army were ready to carry out evacuations where needed, while Guatemala and Costa Rica were telling small ships to stay out of the water.
Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom said afternoon classes had been canceled in schools on the coast and the government was preparing an evacuation plan for 17 municipalities.
Residents and tourists moved to higher ground on the Galapagos Islands — a popular tourist destination off the coast of Ecuador known for its spectacular wildlife, including endangered species, that inspired British naturalist Charles Darwin's evolution theory in the 19th century.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency across the Andean nation and urged coastal and island residents to evacuate fast to higher areas.
State oil company Petroecuador halted product shipments. Ships were stopped, brought back to port or rerouted into open waters in the case of big vessels.
Residents in low-lying areas of the Chilean territory in the South Pacific will evacuate to the island's airport, which lies 148 feet above sea level, before a possible tsunami that was expected later Friday afternoon.
President Sebastian Pinera called on Chileans to remain alert but continue with their daily routines. As a precaution, authorities said they were moving patients from hospitals in some coastal areas in south-central Chile hit by a massive 8.8 magnitude quake and ensuing tsunami last year.
Chile's copper exporting ports of Antofagasta and Iquique were working as usual. State oil company ENAP said ports supplying its two refineries were also operating normally.
The government was warning ships in Chilean waters of a possible tsunami and ports sent large vessels out to sea.
Peruvian officials said they were waiting until late afternoon to decide if they would order evacuations from low-lying coastal areas such as the port city of Callao.
Any tsunami waves were forecast to first hit Peru in the northern city of Tumbes near the border with Ecuador at around 5:30 p.m. and arrive in Lima two hours later.
At the popular Punta Roquitas surfbreak in Peru's capital, surfers were suiting up to enjoy the big waves.
"For there to be a tsunami the sea water has to suck out and pull back first. If that happens, we'll paddle into shore and leave. But I've never seen the sea recede like that," said professional surfer Gabriel Aramburu.
(Reporting by Reuters correspondents in the Americas; Compiled by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
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