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Major quake near Chile set off Oceanic alarms

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Feb. 28, 2010) – Alerts are being lifted across Polynesia after a tsunami caused by the earthquake in Chile earlier hit the Marquesas islands in the north of French Polynesia with waves up to four metres high.

There are no reports of casualties or major damage.

Alerts have been lifted in French Polynesia, the Cooks Islands and Samoa after a series of waves passed.

A scientist has told RFO radio in Papeete that the difference between the lowest and high watermark in Nuku Hiva has been measured at four metres.

Residents on Hiva Oa reported at least four big waves pushing in and the sea again retreating.

The measurement for Tahiti is 40 centimetres.

An Air Tahiti Nui plane due to arrive in Papeete from Tokyo has been diverted to Hawaii.

In Tonga, public radio warned people to seek higher ground, with crowds gathering in elevated areas.

[PIR editor’s note: Hawaii too was in the path of the tsunami, which caused water to recede in some coastal areas but did no reported damage. And in low-lying Tokelau, residents were relieved that no tsunami reached its shores. People there reportedly were advised to stay indoors.]

Our correspondent in Samoa, Autagavia Tipi Autagavia says the tsunami warning has been cancelled after a wave of 50 centimetres was generated.

He says people have told radio stations they saw a wave, the tide moving out of a lagoon, and then a wave coming back in as far as the coral reef.

Autagavia Tipi Autagavia says people are now returning home, and there have been no reports of damage so far.

He says the response to the tsunami warning was very good, with thousands of people from the low lying areas moving to higher ground

Our correspondent in American Samoa, Monica Miller says the capital of Pago Pago experienced three or four small surges and receding ocean which exposed rocks.

She says reports in to local radio stations suggest it was nothing like last September’s devastating tsunami.

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