Saturday, February 27, 2010

At 06:34 UTC today, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Chile, triggering a tsunami in the Pacific Ocean. The tsunami has already hit the French Polynesia islands, with waves reaching two metres (six feet) high damaging to the coast. In Fiji Japanese officials expect waves 2.3 metres (7.5 feet high). Australia and New Zealand are expected to receive waves of one metre (three feet) which are expected to hit within 24 hours of the earthquake.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported that there may be “widespread damage” from the waves, saying that “authorities should take appropriate action in response to this threat.”

In a special report, Wikinews looks at how different parts of the world have been affected by the disaster.

Hawaii is expecting to receive waves reaching 2.5 meters (8 feet) high. A warning went into effect at 6AM local time – 5 hours before the expected arrival of the Tsunami; Hawaiian Governor Linda Lingle declared a state of emergency. At present, there are confirmed reports from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center of waves hitting the islands’ eastern coasts.

Get off the shoreline. We are closing all the beaches and telling people to drive out of the area

Additionally, the western coast of the United States – extending from California to portions of Alaska – is under a tsunami advisory.

The civil defence spokesman for the Hawaiian island of Oahu, John Cummings, encouraged people to “get off the shoreline. We are closing all the beaches and telling people to drive out of the area.”

The tsunami hit the Gambier archipelago at approximately 6:30 am local time. The Marquesas islands were hit about an hour later. Reports from the islands indicate that there was no significant damage or casualties yet. The islands followed the tsunami alert plans put in place following the major 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

In a statement, the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management commented, “[the] current assessment is for a non-destructive tsunami for New Zealand with wave heights at the shore of between 0.2 and one metre [three feet]. The first wave may arrive later and may not be the largest. Waves may continue for several hours.”

The centre, which also confirmed the initial Chile earthquake, also added that “sea-level readings confirm that a tsunami has been generated which could cause widespread damage. “Authorities should take appropriate action in response to this threat.”

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The government noted that the waves were not predicted to have destructive force. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the first waves would not hit the country’s shores until fifteen hours after the initial quake.

“Stay away from the beaches. Don’t go out on the water and if you are already out on the water up anchor and head to deeper water at least half a mile off shore,” warned Coastguard Northern Region duty officer John Cowan.

Meanwhile, the Marsden Point oil refinery, the only refinery in New Zealand, put all of its operations on hold as they were waiting for further information about the strength of the expected tsunami, according to production controller Ted Rye.

“We’ve just had a report from a trader fishing boat out at the Hen and Chick islands, about 10 kilometres off the coast, and they have noticed quite a significant surge,” he remarked.

New Zealand Civil Defence Minister John Carter also appealed for residents to heed officials’ warnings and stay away from shorelines throughout the day.

The east coast of Australia was placed under a tsunami alert; the impact expected in Sydney from 8:45am local time, Sunday there, and along other parts of the New South Wales coast. Areas in Tasmania potentially affected by the quake would be under tsunami alert until 7:45am local time.

“Boats in harbors, estuaries or shallow coastal water should return to shore. Secure your boat and move away from the waterfront. Vessels already at sea should stay offshore in deep water until further advised,” read a warning by the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center. “[…] Tsunami waves are more powerful than the same size beach waves, with the first wave not always the largest.”

The centre noted that among the areas with a “potential tsunami threat” include New South Wales state, Queensland state, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island. However, it also added that the bays and harbours of Sydney would not likely be affected by waves.

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Map highlighting coasts and countries that have tsunami alerts as a result of the quake

Graphic representation of the southeastern Pacific tectonic plates near Chile which cause earthquakes in that region.

US president Barack Obama being briefed about the earthquake

Estimated time needed for tsunami waves to reach certain points of the Pacific Ocean

Map of earthquake with star locating epicenter

Map of Chile from CIA World Factbook with the epicenter of 2010 Chile earthquake marked

Preliminary forecast model energy map of the 2010 Chile earthquake tsunami

Map of Chile with the epicentrer location of the earthquake