|Image courtesy of Reuters|
A tsunami with waves as high as 33 feet, the result of an 8.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan earlier today, wreaked havoc in the northeast portion of the country before setting off on a course to the Pacific. This is reportedly the strongest earthquake to hit Japan in at least 150 years. The subsequent tsunami in the Pacific basin, was headed for Hawaii, California and Oregon.
USAToday is reporting that the first waves have already hit Hawaii (around 3 a.m. local time). A 6-foot swell has been reported on Kahalui, Maui. Waves as high as three feet have been spotted on Oahu and Kauai, and Honolulu's beaches have been flooded.
According to the Reuters report, the main airports on at least three of the major Hawaiian islands, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, have been shut down as a precaution. "Authorities also ordered evacuations from low-lying areas on the U.S. island territory of Guam in the western Pacific, where residents there were urged to move at least 50 feet above sea level and 100 feet inland," Reuters reports.
Hawaii hotels are implementing vertical evacuation, sending guests upward in hotels and away from potential flooding. Beaches in Southern California have been closed as a precaution, as well.
"Waves were projected to arrive at the Northern California coast at about u7:15 a.m. local time, and hit the San Francisco Bay Area at about 8 a.m.," the National Weather Service told the New York Times.
Reuters reported that Tsunami warnings have also been issued from Mexico down to South American countries on the Pacific. Specifically, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru all have Tsunami warnings.
Spokespersons for both the Los Cabos and Acapulco tourist boards told Travel Agent that “At this time, officials in both destinations are reporting no direct risk for either Los Cabos or Acapulco regarding the Tsunami warning. No one has been evacuated in either destination but hotels are instructing guests to just be a bit more careful on the beaches today as a precaution.”
According to the analysis completed by specialists at the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education of Ensenada, BC, the tsunami generated by the 8.9 point earthquake in Japan represents a moderate risk for Mexico.
Towns and cities in the states of northern and southern Baja California could be impacted by waves up to two meters high for periods ranging between one and 12 hours in total. The phenomenon is expected to hit these state shores at 8:44 a.m. local time Saturday (10:44 Central Mexico time).
Other states that could be affected include Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas, the size of the waves could reach heights of up to one meter for one-hour periods for the states of Jalisco, Colima and Michoacán and for 30 minutes in the other states. The phenomenon could also last up to 12 hours. The phenomenon’s arrival in the first three states is expected at around 12:44 p.m. Saturday in the state of Guerrero, and one hour later at 1:44 p.m. in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.
Bloomberg.com is reporting that the Pacific Coast of Colombia is on alert, including Buenaventura, the country’s biggest port. According to the report, waves generated by the quake may reach Colombia at 7 p.m. Friday, the nation’s disaster prevention agency said in a statement on its website. Available information so far signals no waves with “dangerous heights” will reach Colombia, according to the statement.
Reuters also reported that Ecuador's state oil company, Petroecuador, said Friday it was suspending the shipment and import of oil products, but there had been no effect on crude exports, due to a tsunami warning on the Pacific coast.
Against the possibility that the tsunami may reach as far as the Galapagos, precautions were taken at 6:30 a.m. this morning to evacuate guests of Red Mangrove Galapagos & Ecuador Lodges to the highlands of each island, Floreana, Isabela, Santa Cruz and Samai, with enough provisions of water and
food to pass the emergency.
Flights to Galapagos today have been cancelled and there is an evacuation order in effect. All tour boats are required to leave port and be at least five miles offshore. The local populations were to seek higher ground in the highlands and mid sections of the Islands by noon today. All shore excursions today have been cancelled. The Flamingo and Letty, currently with passengers on board, will sail towards Santa Fe Island and stay 15 miles in between the islands. The Galapagos Sky, anchored in Cristobal will sail offshore and the ERIC is dry docked in Guayaquil.
Tour operator, AdventureSmith Explorations, reports that all of its travelers are safe and accounted for. Some precautionary evacuations are taking place in Pacific Coastal regions.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Chile’s National Emergency Office will issue bulletins every two hours to keep the Chilean population updated on a possible tsunami. Should a tsunami hit Chilean territory, according the report, it would first reach Easter Island at around 6 p.m. local time on Friday and then move on to continental central Chile at around midnight local time.
Travel Agent spoke to Juan Pablo Chovar, North America regional manager for Turismo Chile, and learned that a 2.5-foot wave is expected to hit Easter Island in about an hour or so. Although the full details have not been confirmed, it appears as though the country will escape any significant damage.
“When you hear there is an earthquake in Japan, you think how it is just across the street from the Pacific, but still very far away from us,” he told us. “Anything that happens in Japan will affect Chile, but very, very slightly.”
Although it looks as though Chile will escape, the country is still preparing for any significant damage.
“We are keeping people updated every two hours and really know how to be prepared for things like this,” he says, referring to the recent 8.8.-magnitude Earthquake that rocked Chile in February of 2010. “We will continue to keep our eyes out, but it looks like it isn’t going to be bad.”
Livinginperu.com reports that Lima mayor Susana Villarán will consider the possibility of closing the Costa Verde, the coastal highway along Peru’s capital, due to the tsunami alert currently in effect in Peru and all of Latin America today between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Upon hearing of the earthquake and impending tsunami, President Obama instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to be ready for action. President Obama put out a message on Twitter stating, "I have instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the U.S. states & territories that could be affected. http://m.fema.gov."
Delta Air Lines is entitling all passengers affected by the earthquake to a refund. "Even if your flight is not canceled, you make make a one-time change to your ticket without fee if you are scheduled to travel to, from, or through the following cities on Delta, Delta Connection, or Delta-coded flights during the specified time periods…" says Delta.com. The site lists the destination (to, from or through) as Japan through the dates of March 11-15.
Google's response to the quake is one for the digital age. The site has set up its own Crisis Response page featuring up-to-date information on transportation and disaster statuses. Useful maps and realtime coverage are also available, as well as a Person Finder, which offers information for people missing loved ones.
Status in Japan
The immediate, and what will undoubtedly be long-term, effects of the earthquake are devastating, but according to the New York Times, the effects would have been far worse had the quake struck anywhere else, due to Japan's strict building codes, which are the most rigorous in the world. "Had any other populous country suffered the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that shook Japan on Friday, tens of thousands of people might already be counted among the dead. So far, Japan's death toll is in the hundreds, although it is certain to rise somewhat," according to the Times.
Airports in Tokyo are closed, according to the U.S. State Department. All other public transportation in the Tokyo area is also shut down at the moment. The U.S. government is advising all citizens in Japan at this time to contact family and friends to confirm their well-being. The Red Cross urges those in the region to beware of aftershocks and to DROP, COVER and HOLD ON if indoors to avoid falling debris.
The Red Cross has also issued the following message: If possible, seek cover under a sturdy desk or table, hold on, and protect your eyes by pressing your face against your arm. If there is no table or desk nearby, sit on the floor against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you. Avoid damaged buildings and downed power lines. Great care should be used with matches, lighters, candles, or any open flame due to the possibility of disrupted gas lines.
Stay tuned for up-to-date coverage of the Tsunami at TravelAgentCentral.com.