Smaller and less disastrous than predicted. Japanese prefectures had urged a total of 320,000 people to evacuate in the northeast, half a million nationwide, as the waves were expected to be more than 3 meters high. Japan lifted the alarm early Monday, ending the fear of population alarmed by local televisions of the possibility of a killer wave.
A test for emergency evacuation and crisis management
Transportation on many lines of the country's railways and highways has also been initially suspended due to the tsunami. Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama appealed earlier in the day to people not to go near to the coastal areas and stay in the shelters until the evacuation orders are lifted. "We must not drop our guard and please don't go near the coast, " Hatoyama said on TV.
As the first waves approached the archipelago areas, the Japanese weather agency downgraded tsunami alert from a rare "major" to normal level for the northeastern region at about 7 p.m. Sunday, relieving most of the fears as local TV's said after a "tsunami" of reports alarming, falsely some critics say, the population .
The waves first hit a small island of Ogasawara islands midday local time, 2000 km south of Tokyo. Waves of up to 30 cm were seen in the eastern coast of Hokkaido at around 2pm. At 1548 a tsunami of 120 cm was observed in Iwate prefecture's Kuji port. Some roads near the Kuji port and Kesennuma Port in Miyagi Prefecture were flooded and the water level had been rising with no harm to infrastructures or people. Only Otsuchi, also in Iwate prefecture, reported a tsunami of about 1.45 meters at the town's fishing port.
It is the first time in more than 15 years for Japan to issue a major tsunami alert, a warning with top intensity level. Japan is very cautious about tsunamis and earthquakes as in May 1960, a tsunami struck the coasts of Hokkaido and the Sanriku region of Japan after the huge 9.5-magnitude quake in Chile, leaving around 140 people dead or missing.
I covered for Radio France broadcasters on July 12, 1993 a devastating tsunami wave which occurred along the coasts of Hokkaido in Japan as a result of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, 80 miles offshore.
The President of Chile says on Monday morning in the first evaluation of the seism that more than 700 people died in the earthquake that hit the country on Saturday.