Scientists defend warning after tsunami noneventHONOLULU (AP) — The warning was ominous, its predictions dire: Oceanographers issued a bulletin telling Hawaii and other Pacific islands that a killer wave was heading their way with terrifying force and that ``urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property.'
HONOLULU (AP) — The warning was ominous, its predictions dire: Oceanographers issued a bulletin telling Hawaii and other Pacific islands that a killer wave was heading their way with terrifying force and that ``urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property.'
But the devastating tidal surge predicted after Chile's magnitude 8.8-earthquake for areas far from the epicenter never materialized. And by Sunday, authorities had lifted the warning after waves half the predicted size tickled the shores of Hawaii and tourists once again jammed beaches and restaurants.
Scientists acknowledged they overstated the threat but defended their actions, saying they took the proper steps and learned the lessons of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed thousands of people who didn't get enough warning.
``It's a key point to remember that we cannot under-warn. Failure to warn is not an option for us,' said Dai Lin Wang, an oceanographer at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii. ``We cannot have a situation that we thought was no problem and then it's devastating. That just cannot happen.'
Hundreds of thousands of people fled shorelines for higher ground Saturday in a panic that circled the Pacific Rim after scientists warned 53 nations and territories that a tsunami had been generated by the massive Chilean quake.
It was the largest-scale evacuation in Hawaii in years, if not decades. Emergency sirens blared throughout the day, the Navy moved ships out of Pearl Harbor, and residents hoarded gasoline, food and water in anticipation of a major disaster. Some supermarkets even placed limits on items like Spam because of the panic buying.
At least five people were killed by the tsunami on Robinson Crusoe Island off Chile's coast and huge waves devastated the port city of Talcahuano, near hard-hit Concepcion on Chile's mainland.