Tsunami waves up to 6 feet hit French Polynesia


POSTED: Saturday, February 27, 2010

WELLINGTON, New Zealand>> A tsunami that crossed the Pacific Ocean hit islands in French Polynesia early today, with waves of about 6 feet  damaging part of the coast.

Emergency officials reported a 20-inch  wave has hit Chatham Islands east of New Zealand—the third to come ashore in the islands some 312 miles east of New Zealand.

“;As the scientists have predicted, the waves are increasing in amplitude ... and it's likely they will grow more,”; Civil Defense national controller Allan Walker said.

National Radio in New Zealand reported four waves of about 6 feet  hit the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia. The first wave passed Tahiti with no effects.

Asia-Pacific nations evacuated coasts ahead of the tsunami generated by a devastating earthquake in Chile.

In Samoa, where 183 people died in a tsunami in September, police said most people were moved out of low-lying areas by 6 a.m. local. The waves are expected there about 8 a.m.

“;The evacuation is going pretty well, with most people in higher ground already,”; on the main island of Upolu, police spokesman Tavita Moeono said.

In Fiji, people in coastal towns and villages have been evacuated. Police and emergency services are on alert for waves of between 1.9 and 7.5 feet  on the northern and eastern islands of the archipelago about 9:20 a.m. local time Sunday.

Disaster management office duty officer Anthony Blake said coastal evacuations had taken place on Vanua Levu, Fiji's second biggest island, and in the Lau and Lomaiviti island groups.

About a third of Fiji's 800,000 people live in those areas, Blake said.

In the Cook Islands, police sirens, text messages and local broadcasts alerted people during the late night and early morning to move inland to high ground and away from the coast.

Police in the capital, Avarua, said coastal evacuations from villages and tourist resorts had gone smoothly, but they were concerned a high tide at the main island of Rarotonga could see any tsunami wave surge further inland.