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Tsunami warnings lowered

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Sunday, Feb. 28

Japan lowers the country's tsunami warning | 5:17 a.m. ET

NBC News reports that Japan's meteorological society has downgraded the warning for the country's north coast from high risk -- which is issued when waves of at least 3 meters are expected -- to a regular warning.

Pacific-wide tsunami warning lifted | 5:04 a.m. ET

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cancels its widespread alert after smaller-than-expected waves hit Japan and Russia. Earlier, experts had issued a warning for 53 countries and regions in the area.

Tsunami warning lifted in Kamchatka Peninsula | 1:14 a.m. ET

The feared tsunamis rolled across the Pacific Saturday and Sunday but -- so far -- have amounted to very little.

Authorities in Russia's far eastern Kamchatka region lifted a tsunami alert after a series of small waves appeared to cause no damage, a spokeswoman for the Emergencies Ministry said. Earlier, it was reported that a 30-inch wave struck the peninsula.

Saturday, Feb. 27

First tsunami waves strike Japan | 11:26 p.m. ET

The Associated Press reports that first tsunami from Chile's distant earthquake has struck Japan's outlying islands, but the initial waves are small -- very small.

Japan's Meteorological Agency said the first tsunami was recorded in the Ogasawara islands early Sunday afternoon. It was just 10 centimeters (4 inches) high.

Officials said bigger waves could follow and maintained their alerts, the AP reported. Hours earlier, a tsunami warning was canceled for the Hawaiian Islands.

Chile earthquake photos from Twitter |
9 p.m. ET

 
Chileans have been uploading and sharing photos via Twitter and Twitpic, "many commenting on the state of their neighborhoods, local streets, and the homes of family and friends." .Social media news site Mashable has compiled a collection.

Philippines orders limited evacuation |
8:48 p.m. ET
 
Reuters reports that the Philippines government has ordered a precautionary evacuation on Sunday along its eastern seaboard after raising the level of a tsunami alert.

 

"At 7 a.m. today, we raised the tsunami alert to level 2 and People are advised to stay away from beaches and to report unusual big waves in their areas," Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, told Reuters.

 

"There's only limited evacuation in some areas where communities are near the water," he said, adding local officials have the authority to force residents to move to safer areas.

 

And in Australia, the possibility of a tsunami apparently didn't deter beach-goers, according to newspaper reports.


Tsunami advisory cancelled for Washington state coast |
8:30 p.m. ET
 
The earthquake that occurred near the central coast of Chile generated a series of tsunami waves that reached the Washington state coast earlier today. However, the National Weather Service reports that tidal fluctuations have remained under 6 inches and are expected to remain that way for the duration of this event. Minor tidal fluctuations will remain possible into the early evening hours.According to the National Weather Service,  a minimum wave height of six inches is required to maintain a tsunami advisory for the Washington state coast.

Death toll following Chile earthquake continues to rise |
8:07 p.m. ET
 
At least 214 people were killed in the magnitude-8.8 quake, one of the strongest ever recorded, Chile's Interior Minister Edmundo Perez said. Earlier today, the count was 147.
 
Google-powered Chile person-finder data base offered | 7:44 p.m. ET


Person Finder: Chile Earthquake (http://chilepersonfinder.appspot.com/) is a simple application that allows users to enter the name of either a person who is missing or enter information about a person's known location. There is no charge for the service.
 
Please note, users are subject to Google's terms of service, and the site states, "All data entered will be available to the public and viewable and usable by anyone. Google does not review or verify the accuracy of this data." 
 
Tsunami warning cancelled for Hawaii |  7:27 p.m. ET
 
Hawaii State Civil Defense announced on its Web site that the tsunami warning is cancelled, but still warns boaters and beach-goers to exercise caution. The official statement:
 
"Operations at Hilo International Airport are being restored now and the airport will open to the public shortly. The access road to Kahului Airport has also been reopened and passengers are free to leave the terminal.
The State also advised boaters and ocean recreation users to exercise caution as ocean conditions may still be affected by strong currents.
 
PTWC observed some increases in wave height with the highest reported height being at Kahului at 3.2 ft. Wave activity has calmed, prompting the cancellation of the TSUNAMI WARNING.
 
Governor Linda Lingle signed an emergency proclamation earlier today, February 27. "We were extremely fortunate and thank goodness our State came through this without any reported incidents," said Governor Lingle. "Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives and those injured in yesterday's earthquake in Chile."
 
Chile communications still working for many | 7:08 p.m. ET

Msnbc.com correspondent Suzanne Choney reports that communications systems in Chile, a much more technologically advanced country than Haiti, are strained but still functioning for many in the wake of the earthquake. However, the country's transportation minister, René Cortázar asked that Chileans limit their use of telephones.

"There's a problem with communication quality and overload, for which we only ask people to use the phone if it's completely necessary," Cortázar is quoted as saying in Argentina's Buenos Aires Herald newspaper. "We only ask people to use the phone if it's completely necessary."

Volunteers from the nonprofit group, Télécoms Sans Frontières (Telecommunications Without Borders), which also helped in Haiti after the Jan. 12 quake there, are on their way to Chile, Paul  Paul Margie, U.S. representative for the nonprofit group told msnbc.com.

Are earthquakes getting worse? |  6:44 p.m. ET

Chile is on a hotspot of sorts for earthquake activity, according to a Live Science report. And so the 8.8-magnitude temblor that shook the region overnight was not a surprise, historically speaking. Nor was it outside the realm of normal, scientists say, even though it comes on the heels of other major earthquakes.

One scientist, however, says that relative to the time period from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, Earth has been more active over the past 15 years or so. 

The Chilean earthquake, and the tsunami it spawned, originated on a hot spot known as a subduction zone, where one plate of Earth's crust dives under another. It's part of the active "Ring of Fire," a zone of major crustal plate clashes that surround the Pacific Ocean.

"This particular subduction zone has produced very damaging earthquakes throughout is history," said Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The largest quake ever recorded, magnitude 9.5, occurred along the same fault zone in May 1960.

Even so, magnitude-8 earthquakes occur globally, on average, just once a year. Since magnitudes are given on a logarithmic scale, an 8.8-magnitude is much more intense than a magnitude 8, and so this event would be even rarer, said J. Ramón Arrowsmith, a geologist at Arizona State University.

"Relative to the 20-year period from the mid-1970s to the mid 1990s, the Earth has been more active over the past 15 or so years," said Stephen S. Gao, a geophysicist at Missouri University of Science and Technology. "We still do not know the reason for this yet. Could simply be the natural temporal variation of the stress field in the earth's lithosphere." (The lithosphere is the outer solid part of the Earth.)

Hawaii 'dodges a bullet' | 6:04 p.m. ET

An official at the Pacific Tsunami Warning  Center tells the Associated Press that Hawaii "dodged a bullet" after a major earthquake sent powerful waves roiling around the Pacific. 

It still will be about an hour before officials will be willing to give an all-clear in Hawaii, but there were no immediate reports of major damage around the Pacific rim. just tidal surges that  reached up to about seven feet in some island chains.   

Gerard Fryer, a geophysist for the tsunami center, defended the  decision to urge evacuations of coastal areas, saying "better safe  than sorry."

Barry Hirshorn, a geophysicist with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center tells NBC News that they are not seeing the water levels dropping - which is why the tsunami warning is still in effect. There are multiple waves that are still rolling in and the largest waves may not have arrived yet.

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