Hawaii under tsunami warning after massive Chile earthquake
Hawaii is under a tsunami warning following an earthquake in Chile Saturday morning.
EWA BEACH, HAWAII
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Hawaii woke residents with sirens, alerting them to the waves. A tsunami warning — the highest alert level — was issued earlier for the island chain. Boats and people near the coast were being evacuated. Hilo National Airport, located along the coast, was closed.
Residents lined up at supermarkets to stock up on water, canned food and batteries. Cars lined up 15 long at several gas stations.
The first waves were expected at 11:19 a.m. Saturday (4:19 p.m. ET). Most Pacific Rim nations, awaiting further data, did not order evacuations but advised people in low-lying areas to be on the lookout.
In Tonga, however, police and defense forces have begun a mass evacuation from low-lying coastal areas as they warned residents that tsunami waves about three feet high could wash ashore within three hours.
"I can hear the church bells ringing to alert the people," National Disaster Office deputy director Mali'u Takai told The Associated Press. "We will move up to 50,000 people to the interior and away from the coasts."
Waves 6 feet above normal hit near Concepcion, Chile shortly after the quake.
Unlike other tsunamis in recent years, emergency officials along the Pacific have hours to prepare and possibly evacuate residents.
"We've got a lot of things going for us," said Charles McCreery, the director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, which issues warnings to almost every country around the Pacific Rim and to most of the Pacific island states. "We have a reasonable lead time.
"We should be able to alert everyone in harm's way to move out of the evacuation zones," he said.
American Samoa Lt. Gov. Aitofele Sunia activated emergency services and called on residents of shoreline villages to move to higher ground. Police in Samoa issued a nationwide alert to begin coastal evacuations. The tsunami is expected to reach the islands Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, disaster management officials in Fiji said they have been warned to expect waves of as high as 7.5 feet to hit the northern and eastern islands of the archipelago and the nearby Tonga islands.
A lower-grade tsunami advisory was in effect for the coast of California and an Alaskan coastal area from Kodiak to Attu islands. Tsunami Center officials said they did not expect the advisory would be upgraded to a warning.