(HN, March 11, 2011) - Hundreds of small Pacific nations and islands have been spared of extensive damage from the tsunami triggered by the mega-quake that hit northern Japan Friday afternoon.
According to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, as of early Saturday morning local time, many of the low-lying nations feared to be in the direct path of the tsunami were struck from the threat list.
Several other Pacific nations were on the list - including New Zealand, where the southern island was hit by a devastating quake just a few short weeks ago. Australia was also removed from the threat list, according to Radio New Zealand reports monitored by HUMNEWS.
Many of the Pacific islands feared to be in the path of the tsunami rely heavily on tourism and had many foreign guests at the time of the alert.
In addition many were victims of one of the worst natural disasters of modern times more than six years ago, when a tsunami triggered by an undersea quake off Indonesia killed more than 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean.
It is believed that many of the practices back then that led to an enormous death toll have been eradicated. For example, housing on coastlines is discouraged in countries vulnerable to tsunamis and bad weather. Aid agencies have also spent untold millions on disaster preparedness and sensitizing local populations.
“We have a lot of earthquakes here and so are getting used to tsunami warnings, however they are always scary, especially when the earthquake epicentre is nearby as there is not always high ground easily accessible," said Suzanne Bule, 26, a British national who works at the Hideaway Resort on the small Republic of Vanuatu and has been evacuating guests.
She told her hometown newspaper The Stourbridge News: “It's also nighttime here and the wave is supposed to arrive at 1am, so that makes it more difficult.
“The authorities are on the television and radio constantly at the moment trying to persuade people to take the warning seriously as we haven't had a big tsunami hit here, and so people start thinking all the warnings are false alarms.
“Some villages are moving to high ground, although there's always those that go to the beach to watch.
“Fingers crossed, all will be okay and the warnings will be lifted in a few hours, then we can get some sleep.”
- HUMNEWS staff, wires