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Tsunami warning lifted as Hawaii "dodges a bullet"

2010-02-28 12:18 BJT

Special Report: 8.8 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Chile |

HONOLULU, the United States, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) on Saturday lifted a tsunami warning for Hawaii which "dodged a bullet" as tsunami waves triggered by a strong earthquake in Chile passed by.

"We clearly had a tsunami in the water and we had to evacuate," said Gerard Fryer of the center, adding it looks like Hawaii "dodged a bullet" since the worst seems to have passed.

Governor Linda Lingle said Hawaii escaped the tsunami unscathed.

The authorities received no report of damage in any county, said Lingle, calling it "a great day now that it's over."

The first waves of tsunami triggered by the 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile began to affect Hawaii just before noon, reaching the Hilo Bay on the Big Island at about 11:15 a.m. local time (2115 GMT), slightly later than predicted.

The waves became increasingly visible in live television video from the bay. The tidal surges from peak to trough were about five feet, but there was no immediate report of damage.

Other Hawaii islands also saw water fluctuations off beaches.

Ed Teixeira, vice director of state Cvil Defense, reported surges four to five feet high in Kahului Harbor on Maui Island just after noon.

In Oahu, the Civil Defense said the first small waves hit the island at about 11:20 a.m. (2120 GMT).

While there were no reports of injuries and the tsunami threat appears to have abated, emergency officials have repeatedly stated that everyone should be safely away from the water during a warning.

The PTWC said the first wave was followed by a second wave 20 minutes later and more waves could follow.

Experts urged people to remain cautious as the following waves of tsunami may be more powerful than the first ones.

Tsunamis are unpredictable and can last for hours and strongly, officials warned.

The PTWC issued a Pacific-wide tsunami warning early Saturday, leading to sirens that shook many residents out of bed.

Residents should remain alert and cautious, Acting Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

"They shouldn't relax," Caldwell said. "They should take this very seriously. This is the ocean rising. It's going to be pushing things in front of it. It's going to be pushing people. It's an extremely deadly situation."