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Japan relieved as tsunami passes

world Updated: Mar 01, 2010 01:40 IST
tsunami waves

More than half a million people in Japan were ordered to higher ground on Sunday, as coastal areas across the vast Pacific region braced for lethal tsunami waves. But small waves appeared, with only Japan reporting some minor damage.

In coastal areas from Australia to the Russian Far East to Hawaii, officials evacuated residents and issued warnings to be on the look out for large waves following the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated parts of Chile on Saturday. The Asia-Pacific region waited in suspense for almost 24 hours, the time that scientists predicted it would take shock waves from the powerful earthquake to race across the ocean in the form of massive waves.

But the predicted time of impact came and went, with waves of only about four inches reported near Tokyo and of up to about four feet farther north along the Japanese coast. The only reported damage was a few partially flooded homes, warehouses and vehicles in the nation’s north.

As of Sunday afternoon, there were no other reports of injuries, or of property damage elsewhere in the region, causing officials to breathe an almost audible sigh of relief.

“Luckily, these waves are far smaller than the agency’s forecast,” said Kazuaki Ito, director of the Information Institute of Disaster Prevention, a Tokyo-based nonprofit group that advises on natural disasters.

Still, most nations left their alerts in place for much of Sunday in case of additional tsunamis triggered by the huge Chilean temblor. The threat was taken seriously in a region where memories remain raw of the deadly December 2004 tsunami in the neighbouring Indian Ocean that killed nearly 230,000 people in 14 countries.