Digital Publisher of the Year | Saturday 10 October 2009 | Vanuatu feed


Tsunami warning issued for Pacific as strong earthquake strikes Vanuatu

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of Vanuatu, triggering a tsunami warning for large swaths of the South Pacific.


The epicentre of the earthquake was located 231 miles from Vanuatu at a depth of 20 miles. Fifteen minutes laster it was followed by a strong 7.3 magintude aftershock.

A resident of Luganville on the southern coast of Vanuatu's Espiritu Santo island said the quake had shaken the town, but there were no reports of damage or change in sea level.

"People were frightened and some ran out of the building onto the street because it was so strong," a Florence Cari, receptionist at the Hotel Santo told Reuters by telephone. "The sea has not changed but we don't know if something will happen."

A reporter at the Daily Post newspaper in Port Vila said people on Vanuatu's Espiritu Santo island were running for higher ground. "We have had reports that the kids are running into the hills," she said.

Immediately following the quake, the US Geological Survey issued a tsunami warning for 11 Pacific nations including Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, Fiji and New Caledonia.

Authorities in the pacific island of New Caledonia were evacuating people from the island's eastern shore and from the nearby Loyalty Islands to higher ground.

A police spokesman in the French territory's capital of Noumea said they expected waves to hit the coastline at 11.15am.

Residents in the low lying island state of Tuvalu were also ordered to evacuate from areas close to the sea.

Australia is also on tsunami watch, with a stretch of Queensland coast placed under high alert. The alert was later expanded to include Indonesia, Samoa and American Samoa.

A spokesman for New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management said it was issuing a tsunami advisory for people not to be on beaches or boats near the coast.

The Pacific quake coincided with a 6.7 magnitude temblor, which struck south east of the Sulu archipelago in the Philippines. No damage or injuries were reported.

It comes days after an 8.3 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Samoa triggered a tsunami that killed more than 140 people on the island’s south coast and in Tonga and American Samoa.

A deadly 7.6-magnitude earthquake also hit the Indonesia island of Sumatra, destroying entire villages and buying people alive. The death toll is expected to exceed 1,000.

Vanuatu is located in the Pacific ring of fire, a zone known for intense tectonic activity.


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