Sat 27 Feb '10

Hawaiian weathermen kept tsunami locations secret to stop surfers from riding them today. The tsunami from the Chile earthquake is only about 1.5 hours away, and authorities have warned surfers to leave the water.

A six to ten foot tsunami is on the way to Hawaii, and the entire Pacific rim is on a tsunami alert. The tsunami, generated by yesterday's earthquakes on the west coast of Chile, has been travelling for 12 hours, and is expected to hit the eastern coast of the Hawaiian islands in about an hour, between 11am and noon (Hawaiian time, which is 10 hours behind GMT).

A meteorologist on Hawaiian station KGMB gave a stern warning to surfers not to attempt to ride the tsunami waves, saying spots where the tsunami would focus on were not public knowledge.

However, the region of Hilo on the big island, and Honolulu, are expected to experience significant waves and surges. Police helicopters flew over surfers off Diamond Head road east of Honolulu, warning them to get out of the water hours before the expected arrival of tsunamis, at 11.42am (Hawaiian time).

Oceanographers said that while the tsunami was expected to be signifcantly smaller than orginally anticipated, it would be big enough to pick up cars and people, and create dangerous surges along the coast, particularly on the island's eastern coastlines, such as Hilo, where deaths and big damagaes were sustained from a tsunami that pulsed out from a 1960 earthquake in a similar area in South America.

DART buoys in the ocean have already registered the tsunami, and the timing has been nailed down to the minute, with the first hitting the Hilo area at 11.05 and Honolulu at around 11.42am.

Sports matches on Mauai were cancelled as civil authorities prepared for impact.

Three civil defense sirens have sounded this morning in Honolulu. Oceanographers warned surfers not to try and surf any tsunami.

"They are not waves like you know them. They are surges carrying debris. And, lifeguards are not working. It's dangerous out there. Just a small wave can bump you on the head. The ocean that you know will not be acting in the same way. The reef will be popping up, the tide moving around, surges. No-one will be on duty. No-one will be able to help you," said a meterologist on Hawaiian TV streamed over the Internet.

A huge wave was reported to have reached a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, off the Chilean coast, and warnings of tidal waves were issued in 53 other countries. The Pacific tsunami warning centre warned that 15-18 foot waves could hit the coasts of all Hawaiian islands.

Evacuation is underway in many areas in Hawaii. Alerts are in place in Chile, Peru and Hawaii, and also Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Antarctica.

"Urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property," the centre said in a bulletin. "All shores are at risk no matter which direction they face."

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