Small tsunami hits Japan after powerful 8.2 earthquake off coast of Chile

Bigger waves may strike the coast later, authorities warn

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 11:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 11:56am

Small tsunami waves hit northern Japan early on Thursday following a powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake thousands of kilometres away across the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said waves of 20 centimetres were monitored in Kuji, Iwate prefecture, at 6:52am.

Minor tsunamis were also recorded in several other areas of northern Japan, the agency said, adding that higher waves may hit Japan later.

Earlier in the day Japan issued a tsunami advisory, saying waves of up to one metre above normal sea levels may hit eastern Pacific coast regions.

Large areas of the coastline covered by the advisory were also hit by the 2011 quake and tsunami, which killed more than 18,000 people and triggered a nuclear accident in Fukushima.

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The agency warned people to leave the coast but said it did not expect damage from the waves.

“Get out of the water and leave the coast immediately,” it said.

Indonesia also said it could be hit by a small tsunami from the quake off Chile.

Waves of up to half a metre had been expected to hit the eastern region of Papua shortly after 10pm but officials said nothing had been detected so far.

“Until now there are no signs of even a small tsunami. We are monitoring closely,” Frangky Ulus from the Indonesia Tsunami Early Warning System in  Jayapura, Papua, said.

Soldiers were yesterday deployed to assess damage to northern parts of Chile after the powerful magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck off the northern coast, setting off a small tsunami that forced evacuations along the country's entire Pacific coast.

Authorities lifted tsunami warnings for Chile's long coastline yesterday after the quake, which killed six people.

The extent of damage from Tuesday night's quake could not yet be fully assessed, President Michelle Bachelet said. She declared a state of emergency in the region and sent a plane with 100 anti-riot police to join 300 soldiers deployed to prevent looting and round up prisoners who escaped from a damaged jail.

Thousands of people were evacuated from low-lying areas. Most began to return home as the tsunami alerts were lifted.

The shaking touched off landslides that blocked roads, knocked out power for thousands, damaged an airport and started fires that destroyed several businesses.

In Arica, a city close to the quake's offshore epicentre, hospitals treated minor injuries, and some homes made of clay were destroyed, authorities said.

"It quickly began to move the entire office, things were falling," psychiatrist Ricardo Yevenes told local television. "Almost the whole city is in darkness."

Bachelet, sworn in for a second term as president last month, spoke five hours after the quake struck and flew to affected regions to assess the damage.

It was not lost on many Chileans that the last time she presided over a major quake, days before the end of her 2006-2010 term, her emergency preparedness office prematurely waved off a tsunami danger. Most of the 500 dead from that magnitude-8.8 tremor survived the shaking, only to be caught in killer waves in a disaster that destroyed 220,000 homes.

"The country has done a good job of confronting the emergency," Bachelet tweeted.

The quake was so strong that the shaking experienced in Bolivia's capital about 470 kilometres away was the equivalent of a magnitude-4.5 tremor.

Tsunami warnings were issued and lifted in a ripple effect up the Pacific coast of South America and into Central America. In Hawaii, residents were urged to stay clear of beaches and avoid swimming in the ocean after an advisory was issued.

Indonesia also warned it could be hit by a small tsunami and told residents to stay away from beaches.

Tsunami waves up to half a metre high "will possibly affect several areas in Indonesia" from early today, said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters