Chile Quake Triggers Tsunami Alerts in Asia

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region are bracing for a possible tsunami following a massive earthquake in Chile.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii issued a warning for the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia and many island nations in the Pacific. A lower-level advisory was issued for the northern Pacific region.

Many countries along the Pacific Rim are evacuating residents from coastal areas.

Sirens warned residents in the French Polynesian islands to move away from the shores to higher ground. The first waves are expected to hit the Gambier archipelago.

The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center put that country’s eastern states on a tsunami watch. Officials said high waves could reach Australia early Sunday and cause flooding.

New Zealand also is on alert, with officials warning of waves up to three meters high. The waves are expected to end in Japan.

It is hard to predict the wave length of any tsunami, or its exact path, until after it has hit the shore. The waves may not arrive at all, or could be as high as 10 meters above normal sea level.

Experts also warn that the first waves may not be the highest.

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is the most destructive on record. It was generated by a 9.0-magnitude underwater quake with an epicenter near Indonesia’s Sumatra island. It killed about 150,000 people, most of them in south Asia and southeast Asia.

Officials in the Philippines are planning for possible evacuations. The country is still recovering from last year’s deadly storms that caused flooding and landslides.

Japan suffered its own 7.0-magnitude quake Saturday, off the coast of the southernmost island of Okinawa. No injuries or major damage were reported.