BROOKINGS, Ore. - A tsunami on Friday sank several boats in Brookings harbor, swept half a dozen other boats out to sea and washed into the ocean four people who were later rescued, authorities in Southern Oregon said.
Much of the commercial part of the harbor was destroyed, said Curry County Sheriff John Bishop. The damage was the worst reported in Oregon following the tsunami, which charged across the Pacific after being generated by an earthquake off Japan.
One man with a history of heart problems was found dead aboard a commercial vessel. It was unclear exactly how he died but it was likely from natural causes, Bishop said.
Four other people who went to a beach north of Brookings to watch the waves were swept into the sea, but all survived, Bishop said. Two got out on their own, and the other two were rescued.
Along most of the Oregon coast, people headed for high ground in the early morning and began returning home around noon.
The damage reports from Brookings emerged late in the morning, after state officials said it appeared Oregon had escaped major harm. >>> Oregon State Police photos of the damage
In the harbor at Brookings, Bishop said, damages will be in the millions of dollars.
"The port is in total disarray," he told The Associated Press at midday Friday as the surges continued. "Most of the front part of the commercial basin is gone."
Warning: video includes incidental profanity 40 seconds into the audio
The man who was found dead was described as a "live-aboard" on the vessel, Bishop said. He added that none of the vessels that were swept out to sea had people aboard.
Gov. John Kitzhaber held a press conference, at which he and other state leaders said preparations for the waves had gone well.
State geologist Vicki McConnell warned that Oregon faces the risk of a similar quake much closer to home, with much less notice, in an unstable area just off the Oregon coast called a subduction zone.
The waves were larger the farther south they hit the Oregon coast.
North of Brookings in the Coos County town Port Orford, waves measured at 3.7 feet higher than the normal sea level but caused no damage as the water surged back and forth between the levels for high and low tide.
Fought reported from Portland.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.