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Latin America avoids brunt of tsunami

12 march 2011, 09:06
The tsunami from Japan's powerful earthquake swept across the Pacific and caused a storm surge in the Galapagos islands but largely spared Latin America from major damage, AFP reports.

A storm surge hit the island of San Cristobal in Ecuador's Galapagos Island chain some 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) west of the mainland, President Rafael Correa said.

Correa said the surge may have affected some dwellings but "has not endangered human life."

Elsewhere in the region, precautionary evacuations were underway but little impact was felt from the tsunami stemming from the devastating 8.9 magnitude quake that hit Friday in Japan.

Chile, Ecuador and Peru ordered evacuations of coastal areas and Ecuador also halted oil shipments amid fears of rough seas.

Peruvian officials said the first wave of around 40 centimeters (15 inches) hit around 0050 GMT Saturday, after some coastal areas were evacuated.

President Alan Garcia said earlier that he saw "no enormous danger" from the tsunami.

In Mexico, no casualties or damages were reported as waves up to 70 centimeters (2.2 feet) high arrived on coastal areas of Baja California.

In Central America, the force of the tidal wave was "not as strong as expected," said Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

Guatemala and Panama lifted their tsunami alerts and in El Salvador, the government said "the danger is past."

Ecuador ordered the evacuation of coastal areas on the mainland as well as in the Galapagos islands some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) offshore.

But Correa said the moves were purely precautionary and added that "the greatest likelihood is that a sea surge will be the only effect of this terrible earthquake in Japan."

Chile ordered an evacuation of coastal zones at risk from the tsunami, Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter said.

Hinzpeter said this was a "preventive" move ahead of waves expected to reach two to three meters (6.5 to 10 feet) along Chile's 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) coast due to a risk from the tsunami.

With Chileans still jittery after the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the country in February 2010, President Sebastian Pinera had earlier issued a "preventive alert," but told citizens to remain calm and continue normal life.

Most of the 524 people who died in the 2010 Chile quake were killed by the massive tsunami waves that swept away some coastal hamlets.

Chilean officials said residents of Easter Island, a tourist attraction some 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) from the mainland, were leaving coastal areas for higher elevations and that officials were studying a possible evacuation.

"On Easter Island and in the rest of Chile, the waves could be up to three meters (10 feet) high," Hinzpeter said.

Colombian officials said they were monitoring the situation but had issued no evacuation orders after forecasts of waves from 50 to 70 centimeters (1.5 to 2.2 feet).

Elsewhere in the region, condolences to Japan were offered after the deadly quake from countries not exposed to the Pacific tsunami, including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia.

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