Tsunami warnings issued for Japan, Russia

A strong earthquake in the Pacific prompted tsunami warnings for parts of Japan and Russia Saturday, but officials said only a small wave reached the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

ThePacific Tsunami Warning Center and Japan's Meteorological Agency issued tsunami warnings Saturdayfor parts of Japan and Russia following astrong earthquake in the Pacific.

Victor Sardina, ageophysicistat the Hawaii-based centre told CBC.ca early Saturdaythat his agency's data confirmedthe 8.2 magnitudequake generated only a 10-centimetre wave in northern Japan.

"The underlying theme is that it's not a big wave, so that's very good news," he said.

Sardinaadded: "Not everything is clear, but we're going to wait a little bit and see" whether to call off the warning.

Earlier, the Japanese agency hadwarned a one-metre-high tsunami could hit the northeastern coast of Japan's northern island of Hokkaido around 2 p.m. local time (12 a.m.ET).

The agency reported asmall wave hit the shore near the town of Nemuro in northeastern Japan more than an hour after the quake and after officials detected a fall in the level of the tide.

Most areas said there had been no visible change to the sea level.

Officials ordered residents along the island'snorthern and eastern coasts to flee to higher ground, the country's NHK public television reported.

The station'sEnglish web radio servicealso warned thatwaves could be significantly larger in some areas, but gave no details.

Hideo Suzuki, a municipal official for the town of Rausu, said he had not observed any visible change of the sea level as of around 2 p.m., although the town has ordered all residents to evacuate.

A lesser warning was issued for a wide section of northeastern and eastern Honshu, Japan's main island.

The Pacific warning centre also issued a watch for several Pacific islands, including the Philippines, Guam, Taiwan, Hawaii and Alaska's western Aleutian islands.

McHugh Pierre, a spokesman for the state division of homeland security and emergency services, told the Associated Press that about 27 residents from the communities of Attu and Shemya on the western end of the Aleutian island chain were moved to higher ground.

The quake struck around 1:24 p.m. local time (11:24 p.m. ET Friday) about500kilometres east of the Etorofu Islands between northern Japan and Russia, the agency said.

There were no immediate report of injuries or damage from the quake.

Tsunami waves — generated by earthquakes — are often barely noticeable in the ocean, but can rise to great heights once they arrive at shore.

Temblors of magnitude 7 are generally classified as major earthquakes and arecapable of widespread, heavy damage.

On Dec. 26, 2004, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island spawned giant waves that fanned out across the Indian Ocean at jetliner speeds, leaving at least 230,000 dead and millions of homeless in its wake.

With files from the Associated Press