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Hawaii tsunami advisory canceled with little change in surf

By Kari Stanton

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (Reuters) - Hawaii residents were urged to stay clear of beaches and avoid swimming in the ocean as a precaution on Wednesday, as a tsunami alert from an 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Chile passed with little change in sea levels around the island chain.

A tsunami advisory issued for the state by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center was canceled at 7:45 a.m. local time (1:45 p.m. ET), though most beaches around the islands were closed until noon because of potentially dangerous currents.

Shelly Kunishige a spokeswoman with Hawaii State Civil Defense said no inland flooding was expected, no evacuations were ordered, and officials had received no reports of tidal damage.

A small-craft advisory unrelated to the tsunami alert was also in effect after the recent passage of some stormy weather in the islands, she said. Boaters were urged to exercise extra caution as they moved in and out of harbors.

The first waves believed to have been generated by the Chilean quake arrived on the island of Hawaii, the largest in the chain, on schedule at 3:24 a.m. local time (0924 EDT) with little or no effect on the surf, Kunishige said.

Surf measurements of 1.7 feet were recorded at Kahului on the island of Maui and of 1.9 feet at Hilo on the Big Island, but those "aren't really impressive in terms of wave height," Kunishige said.

On the popular Waikiki beach in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, waves were spotted at about 1.5 feet, a normal height for the area, she said.

"We're sure the waves are not going to be large enough to cause any flooding," Gerard Fryer, senior geophysicist for the center, said late on Tuesday when the advisory was issued.

An advisory is less significant than a tsunami warning, which would be prompted by expectations of widespread flooding.

In Chile, six people have died following the massive quake that struck off the northern coast of the Andean country, Interior Minister Rodrigo Penailillo said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake generated a sea wave reported at more than 7 feet along the Chilean coast, and some 900,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas as a precaution before a tsunami warning there was canceled.

The advisory in Hawaii coincided with the April 1 anniversary of a 1946 tsunami, the deadliest recorded in the islands' history, that killed 159 people, mainly at Hilo.

(Reporting by Karin Stanton in Kailua-Kona and Victoria Cavaliere in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Diane Craft)

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