TOKYO - Small tsunami waves hit northern Japan early Thursday following a powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake thousands of kilometres away across the Pacific Ocean in Chile after officials issued an evacuation advisory for certain areas.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said waves of 40 centimetres (16 inches) were monitored in Kuji, Iwate prefecture, at 7:39 am (2239 GMT Wednesday) about an hour after the first 20-centimetre tsunami was recorded there.
Waves of up to 30 centimetres were also monitored in other areas of northern Japan, the agency said, adding that bigger waves could hit the coast later.
Earlier Thursday, Japan issued a tsunami advisory, saying waves of up to one metre (three feet) above normal sea levels could hit eastern Pacific coast regions, but were unlikely to cause damage.
Large areas of the coastline covered by the advisory were damaged by the 2011 quake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people and triggered a nuclear accident in Fukushima.
The agency advised people to leave the coast but said it did not expect damage from the waves.
"Get out of the water and leave the coast immediately," it said.
Local authorities issued evacuation advisories to more than 22,000 people living near the coastline in Iwate prefecture, public broadcaster NHK said.
Television footage showed people fleeing to nearby shelter in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture, where more than 1,000 people were killed in the 2011 tsunami.
Before dawn a tsunami warning siren echoed over Ishinomaki, another city hit hard by the tsunami three years ago, and some local bus services were cancelled.
Authorities in Japan and many other countries at risk of tsunamis have well-developed early warning systems and tend to be cautious.