28 Feb 2010

Tsunami warning lifted in much of Pacific

1:52 pm on 28 February 2010

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has cancelled its tsunami warning for many countries in the Pacific, but not before huge waves caused some damage in French Polynesia and small tidal surges were experienced elsewhere.

The centre's warning has been lifted in French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Tonga, American Samoa, Samoa, Tokelau, Fiji, Hawaii, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, the Pitcairn Islands, Niue, Guam, the Northern Marianas, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap.

The warning, issued after a magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Chile, sparked evacuations in some countries but many people have now been told they can return home.

French Polynesia appears to have suffered the worst effects of the tsunami with the Marquesas islands in the north of French Polynesia experiencing waves up to four metres high.

There are no reports of casualties or major damage.

A scientist has told RFO radio in Papeete that the difference between the lowest and high watermark in Nuku Hiva has been measured at four metres.

Residents on Hiva Oa reported at least four big waves pushing in and the sea again retreating.

The measurement for Tahiti is 40 centimetres.

An Air Tahiti Nui plane due to arrive in Papeete from Tokyo has been diverted to Hawaii.

In Tonga, public radio warned people to seek higher ground, with crowds gathering in elevated areas.

Our correspondent in Samoa, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia says the tsunami warning has been cancelled there after a wave of 50 centimetres was generated.

He says people have told radio stations they saw a wave, the tide moving out of a lagoon, and then a wave coming back in as far as the coral reef.

Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia says people are now returning home, and there have been no reports of damage so far.

He says the response to the tsunami warning was very good, with thousands of people from the low lying areas moving to higher ground

Our correspondent in American Samoa, Monica Miller says the capital of Pago Pago experienced three or four small surges and receding ocean which exposed rocks.

She says reports in to local radio stations suggest it was nothing like last September's devastating tsunami.

In Tokelau, people were advised to stay indoors.