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Thousands evacuated from Russian coastline after tsunami warning

Some 11,000 people have been evacuated from the Pacific islands by the Russian authorities in anticipation of a tsunami.

Tokyo Fire Department rescue workers arrive at Kudan Kaikan in Tokyo as local media said its ceiling was damaged after a strong earthquake and injured people inside the hall Friday, March 11, 2011.
Tokyo Fire Department rescue workers arrive at Kudan Kaikan in Tokyo as local media said its ceiling was damaged after a strong earthquake and injured people inside the hall Friday, March 11, 2011.
Image: Itsuo Inouye/AP/Press Association Images

RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES HAVE evacuated 11,000 residents from Pacific islands in anticipation of tsunami waves unleashed by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast.

The regional emergency officials said that the tsunami could hit several coastal towns and villages on four Pacific islands, which the Soviet Union seized from Japan in the final days of the World War II. The islands lie as close as 10 kilometers to Japan’s Hokkaido island.

The first tsunami wave was 1 foot 8 inches when it reached the village of Malo-Kurilks, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said. There were no immediate reports of damage.

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.

Authorities on the Kamchatka Peninsula further north said the tsunami posed no danger to the area.

Today’s earthquake is the fifth most powerful earthquake ever recorded. The waves are expected to reach the Indonesian coast at about 11am GMT and the Hawaiian coast at 1pm GMT.

Tsunamis can travel at 700 km an hour.

Additional reporting by AP

Read: What happened in Japan? Timeline of the terrible events>

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