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Japan Issues Tsunami Warning After Major Earthquake Hits Kuril Islands

Japanese and U.S. agencies have issued tsunami warnings for Japan and Russia's Pacific Coast after a powerful earthquake struck the Kuril islands east of Japan.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center measured the earthquake as having a magnitude of 8.1. The U.S. Geological Survey later reported a second earthquake measuring 6.5 in the same area.

Initial reports from northern Japan indicate only minimal waves. The Japanese Meteorological agency says larger waves still could follow. Officials have advised residents in Pacific coastal areas to flee to higher ground.

Warnings also have been issued for the Marcus, Wake and Midway Islands. A tsunami watch has been issued for more distant areas in the South Pacific.

Officials say an earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive wave that can strike coastlines near the epicenter within minutes of the quake.