Tsunami waves reach Kuril Islands: Russian officials

11th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The first tsunami waves reached the Kuril Islands chain on Friday after a powerful quake struck off Japan, prompting Russia to evacuate 11,000 people, officials said.

Small tsunami waves reached two of the archipelago's four southernmost islands, with waves at Shikotan Island reaching one metre (3.3 feet) and waves at Kunashir Island 95 centimeters, a representative of the Sakhalin Tsunami Centre told AFP.

"The second and third waves may be bigger," she said by telephone from Sakhalin Island, where the centre is based.

Along with Iturup and Habomai, Kunashir and Shikotan are the Kuril chain's southernmost islands that are at the heart of Russia's territorial dispute with Japan.

Earlier Friday, Russia declared a tsunami warning for the entire Kuril Island and ordered the evacuation of 11,000 people, officials said.

The natural resources ministry said in a separate statement that all economic activity had been suspended on the islands.

Emergencies ministry spokeswoman, Yekaterina Potvorova, speaking to AFP earlier in the day, played down the potential threat of the tsunami, saying that waves were expected to reach around two metres.

The tsunami warning does not include Sakhalin Island that lies close to the Kurils, she added.

Russia's territorial dispute with Japan surrounds the Kuril chain's southernmost four islands -- known in Russian as Iturup, Shikotan, Habomai and Kunashir -- which are still claimed by Tokyo and collectively known in Japan as the Northern Territories.

© 2011 AFP

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