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Earthquake-triggered Tsunami Reaches Australia

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Tsunami triggered by a powerful earthquake in Chile has reached Australia's east coast and people should get out of the water now, the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center (JATWC) warns Sunday.

"Anybody who's on the beach or who might be diving in that area or on a boat should be getting out of the water as of now," JATWC spokesman Alasdair Hainsworth told Australian Associated Press.

"We're expecting to see the first effects of the tsunami, now, in south eastern in Australia and then progressively affect the remainder of New South Wales and Queensland."

The JATWC has issued a tsunami alert, declaring a "potential tsunami threat" for Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.

Hainsworth said people should not rely on massive waves or destruction as an indicator for the true danger of the expected tsunami conditions.

"It's not simply a wave that people will observe, it's quite a sequence of events that is likely to take place," he said adding that the most important thing is there will be strong currents, which could be dangerous.

Hainsworth said, "We're not expecting to see significant areas of land inundated (but) it could happen locally because of the shape of a bay or estuary or headland. It could potentially be very dangerous in the water."

The danger could last well into Monday, Hainsworth said

"This kind of threat can last for a minimum of four hours and we could be looking at an event that could last up to 24 hours with significant changes in water levels," he said.

"As a result we're shifting vast amounts of water which causes these strong currents - it's a pretty dangerous situation."

A tsunami warning is in place for areas from Port Clinton, near Yeppoon, in Queensland, stretching south along the coasts of NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.

All New South Wales (NSW) beaches have been closed and people hoping to view tsunami conditions have been ushered off the sand.

Surf Life Saving NSW has ordered all beaches closed from Sunday morning after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of central Chile on Saturday.

The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center has issued tsunami warnings for four Australian states on the eastern coast from Sunday morning.

Dangerous waves, strong ocean currents and foreshore flooding may hit coastal areas stretching south from Rockhampton, in Queensland, to Victoria and Tasmania.

"We've issued to all of our NSW clubs a directive to close the beaches until further notice," a Surf Live Saving NSW spokeswoman told Australian Associated Press Sunday.

A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Chile, toppling buildings, cutting power and pushing the death toll beyond 200.

(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2010)

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