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Tsunami evacuation for Hawaii canceled after thousands flee

The warnings followed a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 that hit Canada's Pacific coastal province of British Columbia late on Saturday.

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The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered 123 miles (198 km) south-southwest of Prince Rupert at a depth of 6.2 miles (10 km).

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The Earthquakes Canada agency said the temblor was followed by numerous aftershocks as large as magnitude 4.6 and that a small tsunami had been recorded by a deep-ocean pressure sensor.

On Oahu, Hawaii's most populous island, tsunami warning sirens could be heard blaring out across Honolulu, the state capital, prompting an immediate crush of traffic, with many motorists stopping at service stations to top up with gasoline. At movie theaters, films were halted in mid-screening as announcements were made urging patrons to return to their homes.

The last time Oahu had a tsunami warning was after the devastating Japanese earthquake of March 2011.

On Honolulu's famed Waikiki Beach, residents of high-rise buildings were told to move to the third floor or higher for safety.

"I moved my car up the hill, packed up my computer and have my animals all packed and with me," said Staphany Sofos, a resident of the Diamond Head community near Waikiki as she waited word for an all-clear that came several hours later.

Fryer said the tsunami had caught scientists by surprise.

"We thought that the earthquake was on land and when we learned that it was deeper undersea and we gathered more information, we had no choice but to issue a warning," he said.

As residents scrambled to reach higher ground on Oahu, at least four major road accidents were reported by the state Emergency Medical Services. More accidents were reported on the outer islands. But Kunishige said no major injuries were reported.

A tsunami advisory was also posted for coastal areas of northern California and Oregon, where a maximum rise in the sea level was estimated at 6 inches (15 cm), the National Weather Service said. The agency said no significant flooding was expected.

* Reporting by Jorene Barut and Suzanne Roig in Honolulu; Writing by Steve Gorman and Tim Gaynor; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Eric Beech.

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