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320,000 evacuated from eastern Japan following Tsunami alert

Japan has evacuated 320,000 people from its eastern Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures following a Tsunami alert triggered by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile.

Warning sirens have been sounded in about 50 countries and territories along an arc stretching from New Zealand to Japan.

Waves continue to pummel Chile and have rolled through into Hawaii, French Polynesia and the South Pacific as the tsunami moved at jet-speed across the vast ocean after Saturday”s 8.8-magnitude quake, which left at least 300 people dead.

The Kyodo news agency quoted sources, as saying that the authorities have closed all sea gates in fishing ports.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has warned residents not to approach the coast at any cost.

Thousands of families in the Philippines have also fled coastal areas.

US President Barack Obama has warned that the US western seaboard might see dangerous waves and currents throughout the day.

Waves up to 1.5 metres rammed New Zealand”s eastern Chatham Islands. In Australia, the size of the surge dropped to around 40 centimetres although strong currents rolled up the east coast.

People in Tonga and the Cook Islands fled to higher ground.

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