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MISAWA, Japan — Military officials in Japan said they reacted swiftly to news Saturday of a tsunami warning posted for much of the country’s eastern seaboard after an 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck off Japan’s northern coast in the Pacific.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the quake, according to the Associated Press.

U.S. Forces Japan notified all U.S. military installations in Japan and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo via command post and operational channels as soon as it was advised by the tsunami warning center in Hawaii, said Capt. Jason Medina, USFJ spokesman.

“We responded by reviewing our checklists and ensuring everyone was notified,” he said.

At Misawa in northern Japan, where the 1:24 p.m. quake was felt, base officials stepped up the notification process, alerting base residents through the “giant voice” base intercom and on American Forces Network television and radio.

The wing also directed squadron commanders to contact all personnel in their squadrons, said base spokeswoman Capt. Teresa Sullivan. The measures were precautionary to advise people to avoid the beaches even though the tsunami warning was minimal for the area, she said.

The temblor struck 19 miles under the ocean floor about 310 miles east of Etorofu, largest of a disputed four-island chain known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Kuril islands in Russia, Kyodo News reported.

The Japanese meterological agency had forecast waves as high as 3.3 feet for the northern Hokkaido coast along the Okhotsk Sea and about 1.6 feet for Hokkaido and Honshu islands on the Pacific coast side.

But ABC news reported that the largest wave recorded was a 16-inch tidal swell that twice hit the shores of Chichi-jima, a Pacific island 620 miles south of Tokyo, more than three hours after the quake.

About an hour after the quake, the northeastern coastal town of Nemuro reported a tidal swell of 4 inches, according to Kyodo News, and small tidal swells also were observed in other coastal towns, including Kushiro, Abashiri and Otaru.

The initial tsunami warning reportedly prompted thousands of residents off Japan’s northern coast in the Pacific to flee to higher ground.

In Misawa, city officials said they notified residents through cable television and loudspeakers throughout the city. They also phoned Misawa Air Base’s fire department and liaison office about 2 p.m., officials said.

Further south, Yokosuka city also notified residents through loudspeakers and sirens as fire officials went to the coast to monitor the waves, city officials said, noting they also notified Yokosuka Naval Base at 2 p.m.

A tsunami warning also was issued for Alaska’s western Aleutian islands and a tsunami watch for Hawaii, according to ABC news. Both later were canceled.

Saturday’s earthquake struck two months after a similar undersea 8.1-magnitude temblor hit the Kuril islands, prompting a tsunami warning along northeastern coastal areas.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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