The first tsunami waves have reached the U.S. West Coast after sweeping past the country’s Pacific island state of Hawaii. There have been no immediate reports of casualties in the U.S.
Waves of a meter or more hit the coastal state of Oregon on the U.S. mainland Friday. Residents in Oregon and northern California have been advised to evacuate low-lying areas. Emergency officials warned of possible flooding spawned by the tsunami, which developed after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan.
Waves of up to two meters hit the Hawaiian chain of islands, swamping the beach at the Waikiki resort on the island of Oahu. But there were no immediate reports of widespread damage.
In Washington, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said there did not appear to be “any enormous impact” from the tsunami in Hawaii. He said the “enormous fears” about damage on the island state had “diminished greatly.”
Emergency officials in Hawaii had hours to prepare after the quake struck. Residents in low-lying coastal areas were moved to community centers and schools on higher grounds. Many people waited in long lines to buy gas and groceries.
In a statement, President Barack Obama expressed condolences to the people of Japan and also said he has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be prepared to assist residents of Hawaii, U.S. Pacific territories and the U.S. West Coast.
Mr. Obama, who was born in Hawaii and lived there in his youth, was alerted about the earthquake and tsunami in the early hours Friday at the White House.
The U.S. Navy ordered its warships to remain in port at Pearl Harbor to support possible rescue missions.
Emergency sirens blared throughout the night in Hawaii in advance of the tsunami. When it hit, water washed ashore in the pre-dawn hours at Waikiki, but stopped short of the region’s high-rise tourist hotels.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Tsunami Warning Center for the West Coast and Alaska issued a tsunami warning for the entire U.S. West Coast – covering Alaska, Washington state, Oregon and California – plus the northwestern Canadian province of British Columbia.
Warnings are also posted for Mexico and parts of Central and South America.