TOKYO - (AP) - The tsunami from Chile's devastating earthquake hitJapan's main islands and the shores of Russia on Sunday, but thesmaller-than-expected waves prompted the lifting of a Pacific-widealert. Hawaii and other Pacific islands were also spared.
Hundreds of thousands of people fled shorelines for higherground after the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii warned 53nations and territories that a tsunami had been generated bySaturday's magnitude-8.8 quake earthquake. After the center liftedits warning, some countries kept their own watches in place as aprecaution.
In Japan, the biggest wave hit the northern island of Hokkaido.There were no immediate reports of damage from the four-foot(1.2-meter) wave, though some piers were briefly flooded.
As it crossed the Pacific, the tsunami dealt populated areas -including the U.S. state of Hawaii - only a glancing blow.
The tsunami raised fears Pacific nations could suffer fromdisastrous waves like those that killed 230,000 people around theIndian Ocean in December 2004, which happened with little-to-nowarning and much confusion about the impending waves.
Officials said the opposite occurred after the Chile quake: Theyoverstated their predictions of the size of the waves and thethreat.
"We expected the waves to be bigger in Hawaii, maybe about 50percent bigger than they actually were," said Gerard Fryer, ageophysicist for the warning center. "We'll be looking at that."
Japan, fearing the tsunami could gain force as it moved closer,put all of its eastern coastline on tsunami alert and orderedhundreds of thousands of residents in low-lying areas to seekhigher ground as waves raced across the Pacific at hundreds ofmiles (kilometers) per hour.
Japan is particularly sensitive to the tsunami threat. In July 1993 a tsunami triggered by a major earthquake offJapan's northern coast killed more than 200 people on the smallisland of Okushiri. A stronger quake near Chile in 1960 created atsunami that killed about 140 people in Japan.
Towns along northern coasts issued evacuation orders to 400,000residents, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. NHK switched toemergency mode, broadcasting a map with the areas in most dangerand repeatedly urging caution.
As the wave crossed the ocean, Japan's Meteorological Agencysaid waves of up to 10 feet (three meters) could hit the northernprefectures of Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi, but the first waves weremuch smaller.
People packed their families into cars, but there were noreports of panic or traffic jams. Fishermen secured their boats,and police patrolled beaches, using sirens and loudspeakers to warnpeople to leave the area.
In Kesennuma, northern Japan, seawater flooded streets near thecoast for about four hours before receding but caused little impactto people.
But the tsunami passed gently by most locations.
By the time the tsunami hit Hawaii - a full 16 hours after thequake - officials had already spent the morning blasting emergencysirens, blaring warnings from airplanes and ordering residents tohigher ground.
Picturesque beaches were desolate, million-dollar homes wereevacuated, shops in Waikiki were closed and residents filledsupermarkets and gas stations to stock up on supplies. But afterthe morning scare, the islands were back to paradise by theafternoon.
Waves hit California, but barely registered amid stormy weather.A surfing contest outside San Diego went on as planned.
In Tonga, where up to 50,000 people fled inland hours ahead ofthe tsunami, the National Disaster Office had reports of a wave upto 6.5 feet (two meters) high hitting a small northern island,deputy director Mali'u Takai said. There were no initialindications of damage.
Nine people died in Tonga last September when the Samoa tsunamislammed the small northern island of Niuatoputapu, wiping out halfof the main settlement.
In Samoa, where 183 people died in the tsunami five months ago,thousands remained Sunday morning in the hills above the coasts onthe main island of Upolu, but police said there were no reports ofwaves or sea surges hitting the South Pacific nation.
At least 20,000 people abandoned their homes in southeasternPhilippine villages and took shelter in government buildings orfled to nearby mountains overnight. Provincial officials scrambledto alert villagers and prepare contingency plans, according to theNational Disaster Coordinating Council.
Philippine navy and coast guard vessels, along with police, wereordered to stand by for possible evacuation but the alert waslifted late Sunday afternoon.
Indonesia, which suffered the brunt of the 2004 disaster, hadbeen included in the tsunami warning Saturday, but the country'sMeteorology and Geophysics Agency said Sunday there was no tsunamirisk for the archipelago as it was too far from the quake'sepicenter.
On New Zealand's Chatham Islands earlier Sunday, officialsreported a wave measured at 6.6 feet (two meters).
Several hundred people in the North Island coastal cities ofGisborne and Napier were evacuated from their homes and from campgrounds, while residents in low-lying areas on South Island's BanksPeninsula were alerted to be ready to evacuate.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology canceled its tsunami warningSunday evening.
"The main tsunami waves have now passed all Australianlocations," the bureau said.
No damage was reported in Australia from small waves that wererecorded in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and NorfolkIsland, about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) northeast of Sydney.
New Zealand's Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Managementdowngraded its tsunami warning to an advisory status, which itplanned to keep in place overnight.