Last updated: March 02, 2010

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Tsunami beach ban cancelled in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Pacific Rim

earthquake map

How the tsunami spread from Chile towards Australia. Graphic: Chris Deal / news.com.au, Google maps Source: No Source

Tsunami Australia Bondi

Despite warnings of an impending tsunami surfers are still hitting the waves at New South Wales beaches / AAP Source: No Source

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Tsunami hits Chile as Pacific braces

AUSTRALIA has lifted its beach ban after escaping the wrath of a Pacific Ocean tsunami triggered by a devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the coast of central Chile.

Beaches were closed and emergency services were on patrol as the brunt of the tsunami waves travelled in a northwest direction, narrowly missing Australia's east coast.

But tsunami waves were recorded along the NSW, Queensland and Tasmanian coasts, with Norfolk Island recording a 50cm surge in sea levels.

The Gold Coast saw a 20cm increase in sea levels. In Tasmania, Southport and Darlington experienced a 17cm increase.

Port Kembla on NSW's south coast recorded a 14cm increase, but no damage or emergencies occurred.

The tsunami warning was first cancelled in Victoria and Tasmania and was followed later by Queensland and New South Wales.

Surges of 10cm to 50cm spared coastlines but created the risk of severe currents by accelerating the pace of incoming and outgoing tides.


Pacific nations

A huge arc of nations around the Pacific have gone on tsunami alert.

A tiny tsunami has hit a small island far south of Tokyo after authorities warned that waves of more than 3m could batter Japan's Pacific coast after the earthquake.

A 10 cm tsunami lapped the small island of Minamitori 1950 km south of Tokyo, NHK public TV reported.

Officials have ordered 245,000 households to evacuate amid an advisory that the first wave might not be the biggest and that the warning could remain in effect for a long time.

Hawaii "dodged a major bullet" and has cancelled its tsunami warning.

In New Zealand waves of 1.5 metres were reported. The tsunami threat has since been cancelled with the Government still advising people to stay away from beaches in case of surges and rapid sea level changes over the next 24 hours. 

In French Polynesia, waves between two and four meters damaged some boats but no one was hurt.

Warning still current

"Things got a bit crazy about 11.30am (AEDT) or so with (readings) showing quite dramatic variations," JATWC spokesman Alasdair Hainsworth said.

"It doesn't sound a lot but it's going to generate quite significant currents."

But nature is now working against itself, with an outgoing tide hitting Australia's east coast this afternoon.

"It's posing a decreased threat in that the tide has now turned," Mr Hainsworth said.

"As a result we're no longer talking about any kind of foreshore flooding - we're simply now concerned about strong currents."

The initial tsunami threat was expected to hit the east coast at high tide, around 9am, but turned up about 90 minutes later, when the tide started to recede.

"Now it's a case of the fluctuations in water levels causing significant currents," Mr Hainsworth.

Low tide will arrive around 3pm followed by a couple of hours where it will remain low, peaking again around 9pm.

"We're going to continue the warning for a little while longer yet," he said.

"We probably anticipate starting to wind it back later this afternoon but we're still concerned principally about the currents."

Mr Hainsworth said people who brave the water are at most risk.

Aussies have no fear

Swimmers and surfers at Bondi Beach treated this morning like any other despite the tsunami warning

Live cameras at Bondi showed lifesavers ushering people out of the water. All New South Wales and Queensland beaches are still closed.

Despite the warnings crowds amassed just back from the sand with hopes of witnessing any potential tsunami effects. Others ventured back into the water within minutes of being moved on.

Bondi lifesaver Jacob Waxs said about 100 people were in the water despite being told it was dangerous.

"Unfortunately we cannot order people off the beach, we can only advise," he said.

"Initially everybody got out, however, people seem to be going back in and the tsunami warning is still active."

"The surfers here in Bondi will still be out there when there's a shark alarm," he added.

Hawaii

An official at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said Hawaii "dodged a bullet" after the quake sent powerful waves across the Pacific.

The centre said the first seismic waves hit Hawaii about noon local time on Saturday (8.00am AEDT), but it was still registering the size.

There were no immediate reports of major damage around the Pacific rim, just tidal surges that reached up to about two metres in some island chains.

Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist for the tsunami centre, defended the decision to urge evacuations of coastal areas, saying "better safe than sorry".

Earlier, Roger Bilham, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado, calculated that at mid-ocean, the mass of water hurtling toward Hawaii was 200m per second, or 720km/hr.

"Mid-ocean, the wave is travelling at around the speed of a jet plane," Mr Bilham said.

Japan

Despite the first tsunami wave being 10cm high, the Japan Meteorological Agency warned that waves of up to three metres could hit the northern areas of Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi.

The agency also issued warnings for waves of up to two metres along the entire Pacific coastline of the Japanese archipelago, from the northern main island of Hokkaido through to the southern Okinawa island chain.

First waves could hit the Pacific coast of Hokkaido and the central Izu region of the main island at around 1pm (1500 AEDT), the agency said.

For more information about local warnings visit www.bom.gov.au.

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  • irma de dominicis of molise (Italia) Posted at 5:54 AM March 01, 2010

    My God, that's so incredible!

  • Susanne of Canberra Posted at 7:05 PM February 28, 2010

    How will they expect people to take a real threat seriously when warnings like this are downgraded so dramatically?

  • eddie of perth of perth Posted at 6:46 PM February 28, 2010

    sounds like a good day to go surfing on the east coast of AUS to me

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