(CNN) — The threat of a tsunami prompted the U.S. National Weather Service to issue a warning for at least 50 countries and territories after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck Japan Friday.
The wide-ranging list includes Russia and Indonesia, Central American countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica and the U.S. state of Hawaii. The weather service’s bulletin is intended “as advice to government agencies.”
The quake, which struck near the coast of Honshu, Japan on Friday afternoon, unleashed a wall of water that rushed in toward land, leveling houses and bashing cars in its path.
Some officials feared that the fast-moving waves from a tsunami could be so high that they wash over entire islands in the Pacific, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Friday.
“Experts are saying that it could be anywhere from 4 to 10 meters. That’s higher than some of the Pacific islands are above sea level. We just have to do the calculations to see that this is a real threat,” federation spokesman Paul Conneally said.
“In a situation like this, we have to prepare for the worst case scenario,” he added.
But Gerard Fryer of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said even though waves could cause significant flooding, “washing over islands is not going to happen.”
Tsunami waves can travel at speeds of 800 kilometers per hour.
“The tsunami is more than one wave, and the waves can be separated by 20 minutes or half an hour. So just because you see a wave come up and then go back in the ocean again, that doesn’t mean it’s over,” Fryer said.
Sirens sounded in Hawaii around 10 p.m. Thursday (3 a.m. ET), warning residents they could expect tsunami waves five hours later.
The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center early Friday issued a tsunami warning for coastal areas along the United States and Canadian west coasts. The tsunami warning includes coastal areas of California and Oregon from Point Conception to the Oregon-Washington border. It also includes coastal areas of Alaska from Amchitka Pass to Attu.
In the Philippines, the government has evacuated 20 coast areas. A tsunami could could hit by 6 p.m. (5 a.m. ET), it said.
To read more, visit:Â http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/11/tsunami.warning/
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