SAN FRANCISCO/SANTIAGO Tsunamis triggered by Japan's devastating earthquake that prompted thousands to flee the Pacific coast of North and South America caused flooding as far away as Chile on Saturday, but damage was limited.
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 (100 meters) inland in Dichato and Talcahuano, some 310 miles (500 km) south of the capital Santiago and near the epicentre 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 harbours in California were hit.
Peru, which evacuated thousands, was largely unaffected.
U.S. 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 (2 metres). 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-Harbour, 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 (6,200 km) 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 U.S. Navy ordered all warships in Pearl Harbour 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.
Ecuador took extreme precautions after President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency across the Andean nation on national television and urged residents to move inland.
Oil firm Petroecuador also halted production, but navy officials said on Friday night that the risk of danger had passed.
Many ports along Mexico's western coast closed, including Los Cabos and Salina Cruz in southern Oaxaca, the only oil-exporting terminal on the country's Pacific side.
Mexican officials said high waves had hit the northwestern Pacific coast but there were no reports of damage.
Authorities in Canada's British Columbia advised residents to evacuate marinas, beaches and low-lying areas. Officials there said the waves were minimal.
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