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Relief as tsunami runs out of steam

Ports and beaches were temporarily shut and islanders and coastal residents ordered to higher ground up and down Latin America's Pacific seaboard ahead of the tsunami surge triggered by the killer Japanese quake. But it did little damage.

By the time the tsunami waves travelled across the wide Pacific Ocean and into the southern hemisphere, only slightly higher waters than normal came ashore in Mexico, Honduras and Colombia, Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, Chile's Easter Island and Peru and Chile's mainlands.

Waves as high as six feet crashed into South America - in some cases sending the Pacific surging into streets - after coastal dwellers rushed to close ports and schools and evacuated several hundred thousand people.

Major evacuations were ordered in Ecuador and Chile, where hundreds of thousands of people moved out of low-lying coastal areas. After the devastating tsunami Chile suffered following its major quake a year ago, authorities weren't taking any chances.

Still, the danger waned as the day progressed and minimal damage was reported.

Heavy swells rolled through the port and marinas of the Baja California resort of Cabo San Lucas, rocking boats at anchor, but they did not top seawalls or bring any reports of damage.

Mexican officials closed the major cargo port of Manzanillo and officials said some cargo ships and a cruise liner had decided to delay entering ports to avoid possible problems from any rough water. Classes were suspended at some low-lying schools in the resort city of Acapulco, and officials urged people to stay away from beaches.

Officials in the Central American nation of Honduras said waves along its coast were little changed from the normal three feet and they later lifted the country's tsunami alert.

On Chile's Easter Island, in the remote South Pacific about 2,200 miles west of the capital of Santiago, residents and tourists moved to high ground, evacuating the only town, Hanga Roa.

But the tsunami rolled in at low tide Friday evening, causing no damage. Islanders watching the sea from higher ground could see nothing unusual, former governor Sergio Rapu said by telephone.

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