Small tsunami from Chile lap Tohoku’s shores

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo, JIJI

Small tsunami hit northern Japan early Thursday after a powerful magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck thousands of kilometers away across the Pacific Ocean in Chile, officials said.

The Meteorological Agency said the first waves, 20 cm high, were logged in Kuji, Iwate Prefecture, at 6:52 a.m., with bigger ones of 40 cm following there at 7:39 a.m. and 9:32 a.m.

An even higher wave of 60 cm hit the same port at 12:22 p.m.

By 12:45 p.m., 30-cm tsunami were observed in the towns of Erimo, Hokkaido, and Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Waves 20 cm high reached Sendai and the Iwate cities of Kamaishi and Miyako, as well as some islands, including Hachijojima in the Izu chain and Chichijima in the Ogasawara chain.

Earlier in the day, authorities had issued a tsunami advisory, saying waves of up to 1 meter could hit eastern Pacific coast regions but were unlikely to cause damage.

The advisory covered large areas of the coastline that were hit by the March 2011 quake and tsunami, which claimed more than 18,000 people and triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

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.

But, it added: “Though there may be a slight sea level change in coastal regions, no tsunami damage is expected.”

Local governments issued an evacuation order for 2,793 households in Mutsu in Aomori Prefecture, 1,372 households in Ofunato in Iwate and 528 households in Higashimatsushima in Miyagi.

Yohei Hasegawa, a meteorological agency official in charge of monitoring tsunami, called for caution in regions affected by the March 2011 tsunami, saying buildings could be inundated in subsidence areas.

Television footage showed residents fleeing to nearby shelter in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, where more than 1,000 people were killed in the 2011 tsunami.