POSTED: 3:32 a.m. HST, Mar 11, 2011
Taiwan roads reopened and the Philippines and Indonesia reported no unusual waves after Japan's strongest earthquake on record triggered tsunami warnings across the Pacific, including the U.S. west coast.
Sirens sounded in Hawaii and low-lying areas were evacuated after the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center raised an alert following the 8.9-magnitude temblor off Japan's northeast, the Associated Press reported. Waves hit Kauai around 3 a.m. local time, according to the agency's reports. The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center extended the warning to the U.S. west seaboard.
The Philippines, Indonesia and Chile were among more than 20 countries that were told to brace for a possible tsunami after Japan's coast was engulfed by water. At least 26 people were killed by waves as high as 7 meters (23 feet) and many more are missing, according state broadcaster NHK Television.
Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau ended its tsunami alert around 7 p.m. local time, saying there's no imminent danger. The waves that landed on the island were between 8 centimeters and 12 centimeters high, the bureau said. The main island of Taiwan isn't in a direct line to the epicenter of the quake. Indonesia canceled its warning around 8 p.m. local time.
The temblor struck at 2:46 p.m. local time 130 kilometers (81 miles) off the coast of Sendai, north of Tokyo, at a depth of 24 kilometers, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was followed by a 7.1-magnitude aftershock at 4:25 p.m., the agency said. The quake was the fifth-biggest since 1900, according to USGS data on its website.
Waves traveling as fast as 800 kilometers an hour radiated from the epicenter, sparking warnings in countries lying in their path. A 9.1 magnitude temblor off North Sumatra in Indonesia in December 2004 left about 220,000 people dead or missing in 12 countries around the Indian Ocean.
U.S. President Barack Obama said today that he has instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be ready to assist Hawaii and other U.S. states and territories that may be affected by a tsunami.
"We are asking all our citizens in the affected region to listen to their state and local officials," Obama said in a written statement released by the White House today.
Waves may reach Hawaii by 12:59 p.m. GMT, the Pacific center said. At the U.S.-administered Midway atoll, waves were recorded at 4.2 feet high, the center said.
Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology Director Renato Solidum said waves from the Tsunami had landed on the coast. He didn't provide any further information. Residents living in coastal areas in 19 provinces were advised to seek higher ground.
At the Misibis Bay luxury resort in the Philippines there were no signs of large waves at 9 p.m., according to two Bloomberg News journalists staying there. Staff had briefed guests, who remain on alert, they said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center also issued warnings for Indonesia, Russia, New Zealand and Australia, as well as countries down the west coast of Central and Latin America as far as Chile, and Antarctica. Lack of adequate warnings after the 2004 Indonesia quake were blamed for many of the deaths.
Chile's government said it is not ruling out evacuating Easter Island, 3,500 kilometers off the Chilean coast, where waves generated by the quake may arrive at about 6 p.m. New York time.
Indonesia had earlier raised a tsunami warning for the provinces of Papua, northern Sulawesi and Maluku, the country's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency said in an e- mailed statement.
A 0.1-meter tsunami that caused no damage was detected in Bitung on Sulawesi at 6:50 p.m. and at Halamahera on Maluku at 7:05 p.m. Jakarta time, the agency said in an earlier message.