Saturday 20 July 2019

Evacuations ordered along Pacific coastlines

Martin Evans

TRAVELLING at almost 500mph, the huge wave generated by the undersea earthquake began reaching other Pacific coastlines within hours.

But unlike the St Stephen's Day tsunami of 2004, the wall of water did not bring with it the sort of devastation and loss of life that was initially feared.

While the waves were smaller than scientists predicted, the success of early warning systems and evacuation plans were also credited with saving lives.

Hawaii: The American state was one of the first places to prepare for the oncoming wall of water.

Despite being almost 4,000 miles away, residents and holidaymakers did not have long to prepare and take evasive action.

Civil defence officials ordered coastal areas to be evacuated and police officers patrolled the popular tourist beaches of Waikiki urging people to move to higher ground.

Sirens were sounded every hour on the hour to alert people of the danger, and residents headed for the hills.

The first waves began to hit the shore just after 1pm GMT, but the initial fears of widespread devastation were not immediately realised.

The largest waves to crash ashore measured six feet (1.8 metres) in height, with smaller waves following at regular intervals.

Taiwan: Small waves washed ashore, much to the relief of residents in coastal communities just 1,500 miles away from the epicentre of the earthquake.

Indonesia: Thousands of people fled their homes after officials warned of 6ft waves heading toward the shore.

United States: The USS Dubuque, a navy ship docked south of Los Angeles, was ordered out into open water as a precautionary measure. Elsewhere along the western seaboard of North and Central America, oil tankers were moved away from shore amid fears that the tsunami could cause an environmental disaster.

Ecuador: President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency across the nation and urged coastal and island residents to evacuate to high ground.

Chile: Officials ordered patients to be moved from hospitals in some low-lying coastal regions of the country that was hit by a major earthquake itself last year.

Australia and New Zealand: Tsunami warnings were issued for coastlines, but initial risk assessments were downgraded as the waves subsided. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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