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HONOLULU: A mild tsunami hit Hawaii late on Saturday after a powerful earthquake off the west coast of Canada, forcing a state-wide evacuation but apparently failing to cause major damage.
Television images from the island of Oahu showed relatively small waves peacefully rolling toward shore. Shortly after, forecasters lifted a tsunami warning issued in the wake of the quake.
“Based on all available data the tsunami threat has decreased and is now at the advisory level and not expected to increase,” the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center announced.
The centre warned, however, that sea level changes and strong currents could still occur and present a hazard for swimmers and boaters. “The threat may continue for several hours,” the centre cautioned.
Highways and roads in coastal areas were re-opened, allowing thousands of residents and hundreds of tourists to return to their homes and hotel rooms.
But the tsunami, set off by a powerful 7.7 magnitude earthquake that struck off the west coast of Canada, succeeded in disrupting the weekend activities of many tourists and residents.
Countless Halloween parties were interrupted, restaurants, bars and movie theatres emptied, and highways quickly filled with cars heading away from beach areas.
Tourists from Waikiki to Turtle Bay in Honolulu were evacuated to higher floors in their hotels, and major tourist centres looked abandoned for several hours.
Governor Neil Abercrombie declared a state of emergency when the first alert was sounded and kept it in force.
“We are taking a wait-and-see approach—we want everyone to be safe,” said the governor’s spokesperson, Donalyn Dela Cruz.
Initially, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said there was no “destructive widespread tsunami threat” after the 7.7 magnitude quake shook the Queen Charlotte Islands off the west coast of Canada.