1 Mar 2010

Japan apologises for issuing major tsunami alert

10:41 pm on 1 March 2010

Japanese authorities admit they may have been over-zealous in issuing their first major tsunami alert in more than 15 years for a wave that ended up causing almost no damage.

Japan was one of 53 countries that was put on tsunami watch following Chile's 8.8 magnitude earthquake on Saturday. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has lifted its Pacific-wide alert.

Yasuo Sekita, a Meteorological Agency official in charge of earthquakes and tsunamis, said on Monday the agency's tsunami forecasts turned out to be "a bit too big", AFP reports.

The authorities ordered more than 500,000 people to evacuate seaside areas on Sunday after predicting that a tsunami from the quake in Chile might top 3 metres by the time it reached Japan.

When the tsunami arrived, however, it was just 30 centimetres high. Waves up to 1.2 metres high later inundated some port-side areas, but caused no injuries or major property damage.

The Meteorological Agency did not lift its last regional tsunami alerts until 10.15am on Monday, after tens of thousands of people had spent the night in evacuation shelters.

The island-nation of 128 million people is located on the intersection of several tectonic plates and dotted with a string of active volcanoes. It is hit by about 20% of the world's most powerful earthquakes.

In the last major quake, in the Kobe area in 1995, about 6,400 people died.

the coast were suspended and steel gates across fishing harbours were shut.

About 140 people were killed by a tsunami in Japan after a magnitude 9.5 quake in Chile in May 1960.