Some Pacific tsunami alerts lifted after Japan quake

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Tsunami warnings have been lifted for some densely populated Asia Pacific countries previously thought to be at risk after a huge earthquake that hit Japan Friday, the U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) and national officials said.

Staff of the National System of Territorial Studies (SNET) points at a screen showing the areas that can affected by a possible tsunami during a news conference in San Salvador March 11, 2011. REUTERS/Luis Galdamez

Earlier, the center issued a warning for the entire Pacific basin except mainland United States and Canada, and including Hawaii, and extending from Mexico down to South American countries on the Pacific.

Australia and New Zealand, which had been on an initial warning list, were later removed. The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center confirmed there was no tsunami threat.

China, Indonesia and the Philippines lifted their tsunami alerts after Taiwan and the U.S. territory of Guam also said the threat of the massive waves had passed.

The tsunami was expected to head toward the Americas, where PTWC warnings were in effect for countries including Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.

The tsunami waves passed through Hawaii, some 3,800 miles from Japan, without any enormous impact and the United States appeared to be out of any major danger, White House chief of staff Bill Daley said. [nWEN9435]

Hawaii’s civil defense agency had ordered all coastal areas, including the main tourist hub Honolulu, evacuated by 2 a.m. local time (1200 GMT).

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said small tsunami waves of up to 70 cm hit the eastern coast of the Philippines facing the Pacific ocean.

Ocean waves up to 6 feet 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.

The Pacific islands of Palau, which had expected the tsunami waves to hit at 1030 GMT, did not feel any impact, Feremin Meriang, press secretary to Palau’s president, said.

Earlier Friday, the Red Cross in Geneva said the tsunami was higher than some of the Pacific islands it could wash over, 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 Friday, triggering a 10-meter tsunami that swept away everything in its path, including houses and cars.

By 1500 GMT, there had been no reports of a serious tsunami hitting anywhere beyond Japan.

Additional reporting by Reporting by Maureen Maratita in Guam, Rebekah Kebede and Chris McCall in Perth, Olivia Rondonuwu and Alfian in Jakarta, Manny Mogato and Rosemarie Francisco in Manila, Mark Bendeich in Sydney and Faith Hung in Taipei; Writing by Daniel Magnowski and Sugita Katyal; Editing by Miral Fahmy and Tomasz Janowski