SINGAPORE - A tsunami warning has been issued for the entire Pacific basin except mainland United States and Canada following a huge earthquake that hit Japan on Friday, the U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
The warning includes Hawaii and extends from Mexico down to South American countries on the Pacific, the center said.
Among the countries for which a tsunami warning is in effect are: Russia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.
Australia and New Zealand, which had been on an initial warning list, were later removed. The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre confirmed there was no tsunami threat.
Indonesia, which bore the brunt of a huge tsunami in 2004 when 170,000 people were killed in its Aceh province, said it expected tsunami waves could hit its eastern areas North Sulawesi, Papua and the Moluccas at around 1135 GMT.
Taiwan's coast guard evacuated its thinly populated east coast earlier on Friday, and by 1105 GMT the central weather bureau had lifted its tsunami alert, saying it expected waves of only 10 cm high to strike, smaller than the 50 cm previously forecast.
Hawaii's civil defense agency ordered all coastal areas, including the main tourist hub Honolulu, evacuated by 2 a.m. local time (1200 GMT). The first tsunami wave was expected to reach Hawaii at 3 a.m. local time.
Lori Untalan, an official at the Guam Homeland Security Office of Civil Defence, told Reuters a tsunami warning was in effect for the island.
Beaches had been cleared there, and hotels were moving guests to rooms on higher floors, while in the nearby Northern Mariana Islands, all residents were ordered to evacuate to higher grounds.
Hundreds of people in coastal areas in three northern Philippine provinces started moving to higher ground after the government upgraded its tsunami alert, though there was no official evacuation order.
The Marshall Islands, a chain of tiny Pacific atolls, was braced for the tsunami, expected to hit around 11.30 p.m. local time (1130 GMT).
"We don't take this lightly," said Bill Weza, general manager of the Marshall Island Resort Hotel, near capital Majuro. "If it's big enough it will sweep right across this island, but people have been told not to panic and remain calm,"
Ocean waves up to 6 feet (2 meters) above normal sea level were detected by deep-ocean gauges near Wake island, Midway and Guam in the North Pacific, said Chip McCreary, a spokesman for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
Papua New Guinea has issued a tsunami watch for its northern provinces effective at 9 p.m. local time (1100 GMT).
Waves may reach Papua New Guinea between 9 a.m. and 2 a.m. local time overnight, said Rabi Gaudo, a UN official seconded to Papua New Guinea's National Disaster Centre, but it was unclear yet how high they would be.
The tsunami is higher than some of the Pacific islands it could wash over, the Red Cross in Geneva said, warning that developing countries in the Asia Pacific region were particularly vulnerable to tsunami damage.
The biggest earthquake to hit Japan in 140 years struck the northeast coast on Friday, triggering a 10-metre tsunami that swept away everything in its path, including houses and cars. At least 22 people were killed in the quake and tsunami.
By 1015 GMT there had been no reports of a serious tsunami hitting anywhere beyond Japan.
"A tsunami is a series of waves and the first wave may not be the largest," the center said. "The threat can continue for many hours as multiple waves arrive." (Additional reporting by Reporting by Maureen Maratita in Guam, Rebekah Kebede and Chris McCall in Perth, Olivia Rondonuwu and Alfian in Jakarta, Manny Mogato in Manila, Mark Bendeich in Sydney and Faith Hung in Taipei; Writing by Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Miral Fahmy and Tomasz Janowski)
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