11,000 evacuated in Russia after Japanese quake

AP News
Posted: Mar 11, 2011 5:27 AM
11,000 evacuated in Russia after Japanese quake

Russian authorities on Friday evacuated some 11,000 residents from coastal areas on Pacific islands before they were hit by tsunami waves unleashed by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake off Japan's northeastern coast.

The regional emergency officials said that the waves reached several towns and villages on the Kurils, four Pacific islands that the Soviet Union seized from Japan in the final days of the World War II, but caused no damage. The islands lie as close as six miles (10 kilometers) from Japan's Hokkaido island.

A three-meter wave reached the village of Malokurilskoye and some other villages recorded lower water levels, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said. There were no immediate reports of damage.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its facilities on the islands had suffered no damage.

The Russian State Fisheries Commmittee said that it had sent a tsunami warning to 76 fishing ships in the area, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. It didn't say if any of them sufffered any damage.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered officials to stay alert in case of new waves and said that Russia would offer assistance to Japan. "We stand ready to help our neighbors to overcome the consequences of that extremely strong earthquake," he said.

Authorities on the Kamchatka Peninsula further north had also expected to be hit by the tsunami but said it didn't reach the area.

Kamchatka, which juts into the Pacific, is studded with active volcanoes, some of which were spewing gases to a height of up to 5,800 meters (over 19,000 feet) Friday, prompting authorities to issue warning to planes in the area. Kamchatka volcanoes are part of the "Ring of Fire" string of volcanoes encircling the Pacific.

The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted seismic expert Pyotr Shebalin as saying that there is a strong likelihood that the Japanese quake could trigger powerful quakes on Kamchatka or the Kurils over the next nine months.