Tsunami waves are hitting the U.S. Pacific state of Hawaii, sweeping through the island chain. There were no immediate reports of causalities.
Water washed ashore in the pre-dawn hours Friday, swamping the beach at the Waikiki resort but stopping short of the region’s high-rise tourist hotels. Waves of at least one meter were recorded on the Oahu and Kauai islands, but there were no immediate reports of widespread property damage.
President Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii and lived there in his youth, was alerted in the early hours Friday at the White House about the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan, and the tsunami that followed.
In a statement, the president expressed condolences to the people of Japan and also said he has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be prepared to assist residents of Hawaii, U.S. Pacific territories and the U.S. West Coast.
Emergency officials in Hawaii had hours to prepare after the quake struck and ordered residents to evacuate all low-lying coastal areas. Residents there were moved to community centers and schools on higher grounds. Residents waited in long lines to buy gas and groceries.
The U.S. Navy ordered its warships to remain in port at Pearl Harbor to support possible rescue missions.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Tsunami Warning Center for the West Coast and Alaska has issued a tsunami warning for the entire U.S. West Coast, including Alaska, Washington state, Oregon and California, plus the northwestern Canadian province of British Columbia.
Warnings are also posted for Mexico and parts of Central and South America.