Tsunami hits Hawaii after Canada earthquake

On Honolulu's famed Waikiki Beach (above), residents of high-rise buildings were told to move to the third floor or higher for safety.

HONOLULU - Hawaii was hit by a tsunami on Saturday night prompting the authorities to order at least 100,000 people on the island state to move to higher ground.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the first tsunami wave was three feet high and less forceful than expected. Some forecasts had predicted a wave of up to six feet high.

"The tsunami arrived about when we expected it should,"Senior Geophysicist Gerard Fryer told reporters at a news conference, saying: "I was expecting it to be a little bigger."

Other waves were expected.

The tsunami hit with little warning and an alert, issued at short notice due to initial confusion among scientists about the quake's undersea epicenter, caused massive traffic congestion as motorists made a mass exodus from low-lying areas.

The Warning Center had said the first tsunami wave would strike the islands at 10:28 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time.

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle announced that all police and emergency personnel were being pulled out from potential flood zones shortly before the first wave, leaving anyone defying evacuation orders to fend for themselves. He urged motorists who remained caught in harm's way due to gridlocked roads to abandon their vehicles and proceed on foot.

"If you are stuck in traffic, you might consider getting out of your car and consider walking to higher ground. You will have to assess your own situation, depending on where you are right now. Right now it is critical," he said

Vindell Hsu, a geophysicist at the Tsunami Warning Center said an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 people who live in Hawaii's coastal zones had been urged to move to higher ground until after 10:30 p.m.

Governor Neil Abercrombie issued an emergency proclamation for the state.

The tsunami centre cautioned that wave height could not be predicted and that the first wave "may not be the largest".

It said: "All shores are at risk no matter which direction they face".

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