Tags: Hawaii | alert | quake | tsuanami

Frightened Hawaii On Tsunami Alert

Saturday, 27 February 2010 03:30 PM

HONOLULU - Thousands of residents of coastal Hawaii evacuated on Saturday and rushed to stock up on food and water as the Pacific island chain braced for a tsunami following a huge earthquake in Chile.

President Barack Obama's native state sounded tsunami sirens for the first time in 16 years starting in the early morning, warning of destructive waves forecast to reach the islands by 11:19 am (2119 GMT).

Authorities issued tsunami warnings across the vast Pacific Ocean following the massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile, which killed at least 147 people.

"If you live anywhere in the evacuation zone, you have to evacuate," said Oahu Emergency Management Department spokesman John Cummings.

"We're going to treat this as a destructive-type tsunami."

Residents in Maui County were urged to immediately avoid flushing toilets and limit how much water they poured down the drain as authorities shut down the wastewater system in anticipation of the tsunami.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said waves in enclosed bays could reach six to eight feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters), while in other shorelines they would only be around three feet.

Some 144,000 people live in the evacuation zones, including around 90,000 on the main island of Oahu, state civil defense science adviser Kwok Fai Cheung told AFP.

Queues formed outside gas stations along the busy Kalanianaole Highway on Oahu. In Hilo, residents left for higher ground and packed into grocery stores where shelves of bottled water were emptied.

"Nothing fresh," said Chris Phan of Kaimuki as he stopped in to buy batteries, water and cup noodles. "Something that can hold us for a couple days."

Kealas Killion, a produce worker, said the lines started at about 2:00 am and the water shelves were cleared within four hours as employees worked frantically to restock the shelves.

"I don't even bother stacking it on the shelf," he said.

Residents were walking their dogs next to Kapiolani Park by Waikiki Beach to calm them down.

Jill Nakasone, who takes care of her in-laws who are in their 90s, said the warnings were rekindling memories of deadly tsunamis decades ago.

"It's hard on the old people," she said. "They're really nervous."

On Oahu, all beach parks, golf courses and the zoo were closed. Fleets of public buses provided free transport for anyone needing to leave evacuation zones.

Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu's managing director, said the city was working with hotels to warn tourists in the renowned Waikiki Beach area to move to the third floor or higher.

Police planned to close roads an hour ahead of the tsunami to prevent gridlock. On the smaller island of Kauai, the Civil Air Patrol was to fly along coastal areas to warn those in remote areas about the tsunami.

The tsunami was moving across the Pacific Ocean in a general northwest direction, away from the epicenter of the 8.8-magnitude quake offshore some 70 miles (115 kilometers) northeast of the coastal city of Concepcion.

Governments across the Pacific's "Ring of Fire" implemented emergency preparations that were beefed up after the Indian Ocean disaster of 2004, when a series of immensely destructive waves killed more than 220,000 people.

Hawaii's Department of Transportation urged ships and shipping companies to get their vessels out of port ahead of the waves.

Spokeswoman Tammy Mor warned residents they had a matter of hours to leave.

"It's important that those in low-lying areas can get to higher ground. We want to remind people that they have five hours to evacuate after the alarms sound," she told The Honolulu Advertiser.

Charles McCreary, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, told Hawaii News Now that everyone should take the warnings seriously.

"Don't put yourself in harm's way. Don't go down to the beach to watch this. A tsunami is a series of waves; the hazard could go on for hours," he said.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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HONOLULU - Thousands of residents of coastal Hawaii evacuated on Saturday and rushed to stock up on food and water as the Pacific island chain braced for a tsunami following a huge earthquake in Chile.
Saturday, 27 February 2010 03:30 PM
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