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10-meter tsunami observed in Sendai port in Miyagi Pref.

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A 10-meter tsunami was observed at Sendai port in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, in northeastern Japan, at around 3:55 p.m. after a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 8.8 rocked the region Friday, local police said.

A tsunami expert at the government-affiliated Port and Airport Research Institute called the tsunami seen following the quake "one of the highest and the widest in the area of devastation in the nation."

Shigeo Takahashi, senior researcher at the institute, said "It is a once-in-a-century scale of tsunami."

A wide, muddy stream was seen moving rapidly across a residential area near Natori River in Sendai on live TV coverage by public broadcaster NHK, leveling everything in its path, while other coverage showed about 20 cars being washed away into the sea when a tsunami hit Kamaishi port.

The Sendai airport authority in Miyagi Prefecture said the airport runways were submerged by tidal waves.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued a rare warning of huge tsunami for the Pacific coastal region from Hokkaido in northern Japan down to Tokushima Prefecture in western Japan, following the 2:46 p.m. quake which measured the highest intensity level of 7 on the Japanese seismic scale.

It also advised residents in coastal areas on the Pacific coast to move to higher ground and stay away from the sea.

The agency called for the public to stay alert over the next month for aftershocks that could register a magnitude of 7 or more and trigger tsunami.

A 7.3-meter tsunami was also observed in Soma port in Sendai and elsewhere, the agency said, adding a 4.1-meter tsunami was observed in Kamaishi port in Iwate Prefecture in northern Japan, the agency said.

The Tokyo metropolitan government said it has shut 19 of its floodgates to prepare for possible tsunami.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said a tsunami warning was in effect for Russia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Chile, Marcus Island and the Northern Marianas, while weather agencies in the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Panama and Peru also issued similar warnings.

(Mainichi Japan) March 11, 2011

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