March 11, 2011 / 9:03 AM / 8 years ago

Hawaii orders evacuations, Pacific tsunami warning extended

HONOLULU (Reuters) - A tsunami warning was extended to the whole of the Pacific basin, except for mainland United States and Canada, following the earthquake off Japan, the U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said on Friday.

The warning includes Hawaii and extends from Mexico and Central down to South American countries on the Pacific, the centre said.

A tsunami warning was issued late on Thursday for Hawaii after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan, prompting civil defence officials to order all Hawaiian coastal areas evacuated.

The warning said that all islands in the Hawaiian chain were in the path of potential damage from a tsunami generated by the quake.

The quake off Japan’s northeast coast was the biggest in 140 years and triggered tsunami waves of up to 10 meters (30 feet) that swept across farmland, sweeping away homes, crops, vehicles and triggering fires.

The estimated arrival time in Hawaii of a first tsunami wave 3 a.m. local time, the advisory said.

Civil defence sirens blared statewide shortly before 10 p.m. local time to alert residents.

“Each individual wave crest can last five to 15 minutes or more and extensively flood coastal areas,” the advisory statement warned. “The danger can continue for many hours after the initial wave as subsequent waves arrive.”

The statement also said that debris carried by a tsunami could amplify its destructive force, said it warned that “urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property.”

The state civil defence agency ordered all coastal areas for the entire state evacuated no later than 2 a.m. local time. The evacuation zone includes the famous Waikiki Beach, the main hotel and tourist hub in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

Emergency management officials also urged residents to remain at least 100 feet (30 meters) away from inland waterways and marinas linked to the ocean and to move vessels to deeper water.

Residents and tourists were advised that high-rise steel and reinforced-concrete buildings provide increased protection on or above the third floor.

Ocean waves up to 6 feet (2 meters) above normal sea level were detected by deep-ocean gauges near Wake island, Midway and Guam in the North Pacific, said Chip McCreary, a spokesman for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.

The island of Kauai is expected to be first hit because the tsunami was advancing from the west and would likely take 20 to 30 minutes to cross the entire state, McCreary said.

Writing by Steve Gorman; editing by Peter Bohan and Anthony Boadle

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