Tsunami alert in French Polynesia

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French Polynesia sounded a tsunami alert on Friday and New Caledonia ordered residents to evacuate coastal areas for fear of waves caused by a huge earthquake in Japan.

Authorities rang sirens in the early morning, signalling that residents should flee to high ground as waves up to three metres (10 feet) high were expected to hit the Marquesas islands, part of the Polynesian archipelago.

The waves were expected to hit the various far-flung parts of the archipelago from 6:50 am (1730 GMT). Schools were closed across the territory.

In another French Pacific territory, New Caledonia, authorities ordered residents in northern parts of the main island and along the east of the nearby Loyalty Islands "to evacuate their homes and reach high ground".

New Caledonia forecast waves of up to a metre (three feet) to reach that territory by early Saturday -- far smaller than those that flooded parts of Japan but still judged a threat to coastal communities on the remote territory.

© 2011 AFP

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