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Quake-triggered Tsunami Waves Hit Japan

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The first waves of the tsunami triggered by the powerful earthquake in Chile hit Japan and flooded ports Sunday, but they were smaller and less disastrous than predicted.

The waves first hit a small island of Ogasawara islands at around 12:48 AM local time, (0348 GMT), 1,950 km south of Tokyo, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Waves of up to 30 cm were seen in the eastern coast of Hokkaido at around 2:00 PM, marking a landing to Japan's main coastline.

At 3:49 local time, tsunami of 120 cm was observed in Iwate prefecture's Kuji port, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

NHK TV footage showed roads near the Kuji port and Kesennuma Port in Miyagi Prefecture, among other ports, were flooded and the water level had been rising.

Local governments had urged a total of 320,000 people in northeast Japan to evacuate, where the waves are expected to be more than 3 meters high.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama appealed to people not to go near to the coastal areas and stay in the shelters until the evacuation orders are lifted.

"We must not drop our guard and please don't go near the coast, " Hatoyama said on TV.

Major tsunami alert is issued by the JMA for the pacific coast of Aomori prefecture, coast of Miyagi and Iwate prefectures in northeast Japan, saying "very high tsunami" with waves up to 3 meters are expected, and "everyone near the coast must immediately evacuate to higher ground".

It is the first time in 17 years for Japan to issue a major tsunami alert, a warning with the most intense level.

Tsunami warnings were also issued for other areas along Japan's Pacific coastline from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

Transportation on many lines of the country's railways and highways has also been suspended due to the tsunami.

An official of the weather agency's earthquake and tsunami observation section said in the NHK that the agency may have to keep the warnings in place for a long time because "the second and third waves could be bigger than the first waves."

In May 1960, a tsunami struck the coasts of Hokkaido and the Sanriku region of Japan after the huge M9.5 quake in Chile, leaving around 140 people dead or missing.

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 8.8 struck Chile Saturday, killing so far at least 300 people.

(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2010)

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