A powerful undersea earthquake in the north Pacific on Wednesday triggered tsunami alert and panic in Japan and Russia. However, it was for a matter of hours. The alert was called off after a series of small waves, barely 40-cm-high, came ashore Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.
The epicentre of the quake (at around 4.45 p.m. IST) was the Pacific seabed, roughly 1,700 km northeast of Tokyo. The 8.1-magnitude quake hit the sparsely populated Kurile Islands, a disputed territory claimed by both Japan and Russia.
There were no reports of casualty or damage to buildings but the fear of tsunami soon struck.
Initially, Hokkaido officials predicted tsunami waves about 2-m-high. The Japan Meteorological Agency said huge waves would hit the Pacific coast of Hokkaido and the main island of Honshu.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, United States, too upgraded its tsunami warning for Russia and Japan.
Russian emergency services went on high alert. Officials said residents on the Kurile Islands, controlled by Russia, were warned of the threat but were not evacuated.
Japanese officials urged thousands of people along the northern and eastern coasts to move to higher ground, with authorities taking to the streets to spread the warning. The government even set up an emergency task force at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office.