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Tsunami warnings cancelled after twin quakes

Posted October 8, 2009 09:28:00
Updated October 8, 2009 11:24:00

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has cancelled all tsunami warnings and watches for the region after huge subsea quakes generated a tiny wave.

Earlier islanders across the South Pacific headed to higher ground after two big undersea earthquakes off Vanuatu sparked a tsunami warning across the region this morning.

The epicentre of the first 7.8-magnitude quake was located 373 kilometres from Vanuatu at a depth of 33 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said. The second quake hit, measured at 7.3-magnitude, hit about 15 minutes later.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre initially said the quakes did generate a tsunami, without giving details on the height of the wave.

The Australian Tsunami Warning Centre cancelled an earlier tsunami watch for the Australian coastline.

The Bureau of Meteorology website states that: "No tsunami waves have been observed that pose a threat to the Australian mainland, islands or territories."

Evacuations

But the initial tsunami warning for 11 nations, including Papua New Guinea and the popular resort islands of Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, sent islanders fleeing for higher ground just one week after devastating quakes off Samoa and Sumatra killed hundreds of people.

Fiji was put on tsunami alert. Many offices and schools close to the sea have been closed and Fiji's disaster management office advised hotels to take tourists to higher ground.

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. "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.

ABC Papua New Guinea correspondent Liam Fox said the quake had not been felt in the capital Port Moresby.

Douglas Charley from Vanuatu's Department of Geology is warning people to get to higher ground, but is concerned for tourists as there is no way to contact them.

"We just felt a couple of minutes ago a big earthquake. It was felt from the northern part of Vanuatu to the central part," he told Radio Australia.

"At this stage it's too early to say if there was any damage. We have a big problem here with communication to alert people in the north parts of Vanuatu.

"We are able to communicate by mobile phone to warn them that there will be a tsunami. The advice is for them to go up to higher ground at this time.

"We are expecting that it could generate a tidal wave."

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

Residents of Tuvalu were also ordered to evacuate from areas close to the sea.

Quake off Philippines

Earlier this morning, a magnitude-6.7 quake struck south-east of the Sulu archipelago of the Philippines.

The quake was in the Celebes Sea, 320 kilometres south of Zamboanga in Mindanao, and occurred at 5:41am (local time). The depth was 582.8 kilometres, the USGS said.

The latest quakes came a week after an undersea 8.3-magnitude quake struck off Samoa, causing a devastating tsunami in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga, which killed hundreds of people.

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.

Tags: disasters-and-accidents, earthquake, australia, qld, cairns-4870, mackay-4740, townsville-4810, papua-new-guinea, vanuatu

Comments (56)

Comments for this story are closed. No new comments can be added. If you would like to have your say on this issue, you can do so via the Emails section of our Opinion pages.

  • Polly:

    08 Oct 2009 10:37:30am

    Vanuatu I am praying for you, thinking of ancestors buried on isolated islands near the epicentre, thinking of you all.

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  • eirlys:

    08 Oct 2009 10:39:36am

    The BOM website says the alert has be cancelled as at 10.27 am today

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • Collins:

    08 Oct 2009 10:43:08am

    The lead up to 2012?

    Agree (1) Alert moderator

    • teu:

      08 Oct 2009 11:18:11am

      please explain

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

      • hugh jampton:

        08 Oct 2009 11:33:50am

        There are a number of crackpot theories around that cataclysmic or transformative events will occur in the year 2012 - look up the Wikipedia reference for a bit of an idea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_phenomenon

        Reality tells us that there are hundreds of earthquakes every week - the USGS site shows 285 over 4.5 in the last week, and numbers are fairly constant over time. There is some evidence that they occur in time/location related 'clusters' - which makes some sense because when one bit of the earths crust shifts, it seems likely that the energy released may nudge along another bit that has some built up stress.

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        • Beta Data:

          08 Oct 2009 12:17:04pm

          Actually, you're quite wrong. Precession of Equinoxes.
          Mayans, Hopi Indians, IChing and many others predicting a change in the way we live. Open that mind up just a bit more and might actually see that the earth is going through transformation right now. As one being (earth and all living things) we are one, one organism, and for us to survive we need to evolve.
          Evolution principles one o one. ;)

          Its not the end of the world, its the end of this world as we know it....

          Agree (0) Alert moderator

        • MAnfredo:

          08 Oct 2009 12:37:15pm

          Yeah, let's ditch modern science and revert to the predictions of Mayans, Hopi Indians, IChing and Tealeaf readers. ;-)

          Agree (0) Alert moderator

        • hugh jampton:

          08 Oct 2009 12:42:24pm

          You might want to open up your mind a bit. The world itself (geologically) has been undergoing change since it as formed, life has changed incessantly since it crawled out of the primordial swamp. And it will continue to evolve. And while we need the earth to survive, it certainly doesn't need us. The suggestion that we are one 'organism' is absurd. Human astrology, the superstitions of the Mayans or anyone else have no bearing on the future of the earth, and not much on it's past.

          In any event, the Mayan Clander was circular - it ends in 2012 because they ran out of room. If the Spanish hadn't exterminated them they would already have prepared one for the next period of time.

          And there is no evidence that the number of earthquakes or other natural disasters in increasing

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        • Statorius:

          08 Oct 2009 1:00:37pm

          Correct.
          Mayan calendar has something like a Y2K event in 2012.
          One mayan kings' stele comments on how he will be remembered in a date 4000 years from now, so they did not believe the world will end.

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        • JC Classic:

          08 Oct 2009 12:46:55pm

          In 2012, nothing will change. Except that those who believe this nonsense will disappear.

          Agree (0) Alert moderator

      • JC Classic:

        08 Oct 2009 11:36:17am

        The Nibiru nonsense. Google is your friend here :-)

        Remember, the reason we are hearing so much more about tsunamis now is that we didnt really bother monitoring for them before the boxing day tsumani.

        Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • Root:

      08 Oct 2009 12:43:19pm

      No. The 'lead up' to 2012 is 2011.

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • dragunov:

    08 Oct 2009 10:52:07am

    are there any scientists saying if these events of the last week are related? what are the theories?

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • Brad:

      08 Oct 2009 11:21:17am

      Science is saying unfortunate coincidence. Conspiracy theorists are blaming HAARP (Google it).

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • Sono:

      08 Oct 2009 11:30:30am

      The region isn't called the Pacific ring of fire for nothing. there are no theories other than these are just events that happen in regions like this. It happens all the time in the area, just has happened a little more frequently lately.

      As for rochefort below, this is no cycle. Are you one of these so called 'experts'? In the recent past the region has been relatively stable so when natural events such as these occur people come up scrambling for reasons or relationships etc.

      These things happen on earth all the time, sometimes not for a while, sometimes frequently. there is no more meaning in it than that.

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

      • Polly:

        08 Oct 2009 11:43:50am

        Sono, you're correct about 'these things happening all the time' as anyone who grew up in the pacific islands with lamps that would swing every time a minor quake came through.Its just that Australians are unused to these events and people tend to forget.My memory goes back to tsunamis in the 1960s that swept across the pacific to Japan and took out a small island near where we lived in ways now being brought to international attention because of the leaps in communications technology.

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      • cpk:

        08 Oct 2009 11:54:43am

        speaking of ring of fire... could this be a leadup to volcanic activity... with the large volume of movement in the techtonic plates, could there be a chance that it will create a fisure allowing magma and lava to erupt from deep underground???

        I hope that there is an action plan if this kind of thing does happen, as this would be further disater that this area just does not need.

        Agree (0) Alert moderator

        • Sono:

          08 Oct 2009 12:11:59pm

          It is already happening all over the region. There are live volcanoes in Vanuatu spewing lava as we speak. look up Yasur Volcano, an amazing place. That's the thing about this region, it is active all the time.

          Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • Pickled:

    08 Oct 2009 10:52:52am

    Is all this increased activity in this region a hiccup in the general scheme of things, or is it a herald of things to come? From a general bystander's point of view, the plates in that area seem to be nudging each other with more force.

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • Philip T:

    08 Oct 2009 10:54:54am

    Also earthquake just occured near the Philippines and current sictuation their is still unknown. Pacific has been going off in the last few weeks.

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • hugh jampton:

      08 Oct 2009 12:22:50pm

      The Pacific has been "going off" for several hundred million years. There is no evidence to suggest that the number of earthquakes is either increasing or decreasing. Geology operates over incredibly long time scales (we are, after all talking about moving whole chunks of the earth around its surface).

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • Root:

      08 Oct 2009 1:02:20pm

      Last few weeks???

      http://earthquake.usgs.gov/

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • rochefort:

    08 Oct 2009 10:55:58am

    Interesting that some so called 'experts' say all these seismic events over the past fortnight are 'unrelated' seems pretty clear to even the casual observer that the continental plates say differently and are on the move in some sort of cycle. Looks like more to come, unfortunately!

    Especially with all this global warming which surely must be at the heart of it all! I jest! So sad for the future - on this topic - others are not!
    And they wonder why those that are not GW eco-sheep find large credibility gaps in the palp presented to us in a poorly disguised attempt by governments to raise further taxes and utility charges under the GW pretext.

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • hugh jampton:

      08 Oct 2009 11:41:34am

      "Interesting that some so called 'experts' say all these seismic events over the past fortnight are 'unrelated' seems pretty clear to even the casual observer that the continental plates say differently and are on the move in some sort of cycle."

      Interesting that the "casual observer" who has had their interest in 'quakes stirred along by the media reporting of these recent events feels that their "casual observations" are more informed and relevant than the constant watching of such events by professional scientists who have devoted their working lives to such studies.

      In the middle ages it was pretty obvious to the casual observer that the earth was flat and if you sailed far enough you would fall off the edge - even though the Greeks had worked out that it was spherical about 1000 years earlier

      Agree (2) Alert moderator

    • Paul:

      08 Oct 2009 11:42:04am

      And aren't you sad for the people dying from the increasing frequency of extreme weather caused by warming? ...Or just indifferent to that?

      Unlike these natural earthquakes...these new climate extremes could have been prevented if people were not so gullible to anti-science.

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

      • Wake up Australia:

        08 Oct 2009 12:44:33pm

        Paul, more people die each year from cold than heat - you do know that don't you? and you also know that if indeed the temperature of the planet increases by 2 degrees over the next 100 years due to natural unstoppable climate change there will actually be a net benefit to mankind.

        Suggest you do some proper research on the matter before you take a stand on a totally unproven hypothesis that is rapidly being discredited every day.

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      • Wake up Australia:

        08 Oct 2009 12:50:01pm

        and also Paul, there has been no recorded increase in extreme weather events over the last 30 years - sorry thats a fact, an inconvenient fact for AGW believers of course.

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    • Philip T:

      08 Oct 2009 11:48:09am

      Congratulations, you are the first to blame global warming for earthquakes.
      Now, please explain why earthquakes have occured for millions of years, and this region in the Pacific is called the ring of fire and has so for almost a hundred years?
      You're another gullable believer. Ohh and by the way, rivers are flowing for the first time in 12 years in Northern Victoria. Bet that never came to your attention because it is the last thing you wanna hear, seeming it goes against your global warming theory.

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  • Pauly:

    08 Oct 2009 10:56:55am

    Anyone else ever noticed that quakes seem to often come in pairs and about 6-32 hours apart I always read about a quake then I find my self reading of another and they aren't always right near each other?

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    • tom:

      08 Oct 2009 11:45:33am

      Haha too right Pauly, I imagine its really some media mogule with some giant machine. Every time its a slow news day, BAM, another earth quake.

      Yes ladies and gentlemen its all a giant conspiracy, we're all going to die.
      And im sure in 50 years time when we're all still here and the next large disaster will also be declared the end of the world and so on/

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  • dragunov:

    08 Oct 2009 11:06:26am

    are there any scientists commenting on the relationship between these events? what are the theories?

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • Isaac:

    08 Oct 2009 11:07:15am

    Damn, another earthquake. Can't Earth leave the islanders alone?

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • Carole:

    08 Oct 2009 11:08:27am

    Just spoke to my friend from Worawia Resort and Cafe du Village, who advised two earthquakes, one measure 8.5, now they have headed to high ground. Winds are picking up, people are nervous....waiting.

    Hope they all keep safe, prayers are with all those in V.

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • Sono:

      08 Oct 2009 11:38:05am

      Was just in Worawia in July. My son had a ball for a number of days playing with Chililo (can't remember the spelling) at the Resort. The one across form the village and the kava bar. I do hope they are ok. I've just been mourning the loss of friends in Samoa.

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • DavidLastName:

    08 Oct 2009 11:11:32am

    I dont understand why there isnt a story about the whole India/Australia plate moving? There are so many quakes at the same time and they all seem to be near the India/Australia plate fault lines.

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    • hugh jampton:

      08 Oct 2009 11:49:10am

      The Australian/Indian tectonic plate has been moving for a very, very long time - that's why the Himalayan mountains are so high. It's taught in high school, so it's hardly news. Rate of progress is about 10 centimetres per annum - and were once attached to Antarctica, so you can imgine how long it's been going on.

      There are hundreds of earthquakes every week, most occurring at tectonic plate boundaries, all around the world.

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  • AW:

    08 Oct 2009 11:14:42am

    All I know is that I have just returned to my office in Solomon Islands after the second evacuation in a week, the breeze on the top of the hill was very nice

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • Polly Senileba:

    08 Oct 2009 11:21:17am

    My boyfriend is in fiji,.... AHHHHHHHHHH u serious!!

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • insulist:

    08 Oct 2009 11:25:23am

    Ordering Tuvalu residents to evacuate from areas close to the sea sounds like a sick joke. Tuvalu is atolls, it is all close to the sea. The furthest you could get from the sea is probably about 200m. The highest land in Tuvalu is about 2m above sea level, and lowering by the year.

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  • Holly:

    08 Oct 2009 11:25:29am

    My dad is in Vanuatu- Pt Villa, there on holidays- he just emailed about30min ago saying of the warning- he has been booted out of his hotel- head to higher ground daddy- please be safe xxxxxxxx

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  • Flyingbudda:

    08 Oct 2009 11:29:05am

    Queensland or at least some of it has the Great Barrier Reef running down a good part of the east coast , i would guess and maybe someone can tell me if i'm wrong but its shallow enough and broad enough to cause any big wave to break on its outer edge, sure there would still be some surge but it should act as a wave breaker. ??

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  • daisy:

    08 Oct 2009 11:31:21am

    If a tsunami were to travel across the Pacific, the loss of life would be unbelievable as the islands that make up Kiribati and Tuvalu are hardly above sea level. Where would the islanders go, take to the sea in a canoe and pray.

    What is causing all these earthquakes?

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • JC Classic:

      08 Oct 2009 11:37:54am

      "What is causing all these earthquakes?"

      Plate tectonics? Vulcanism?

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • tom:

      08 Oct 2009 11:47:55am

      Do some year 10 geography and you'll find out. Those crazy "tetonic" plate things that have existed for billions of years are moving... as they have been for billions of years. Its the same reason why the continents move, tetonic shift and so on.

      Read up on it, its all very interesting and its by no means a conspiracy.

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • Ade:

    08 Oct 2009 11:37:42am

    The general air I can gather from all these comments is that we all believe these quakes are related. I concur. It is far too consequential to be unrelated. However experts and scientists are advising that it is not related. Unfortunately, due the nature of the human beast, if we were to be told that they are related (and let's face it, if they are related, then something more dire than tsunamis is afoot.) we members of the public are liable to panic. And when there is mass panic, then that can be as dangerous as a massive tsunami. I feel we will see far more devastation. Please god, prove me wrong.

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    • Sono:

      08 Oct 2009 12:09:19pm

      Unfortunately, due to the nature of the human beast, we will believe what we want to believe regardless of what scientists tell us. We humans are designed to seek out order and see patterns, it's how we evolved. Therefore when something like this happens we seek to define it, make relationships, pigeon hole it. Even when the vast wave of scientific evidence states otherwise.
      Also see, Climate change and intelligent design.

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • Nilesh:

      08 Oct 2009 12:23:41pm

      Finally Saved From Tsunami!

      Thank God!!!

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • Polly:

    08 Oct 2009 12:05:24pm

    I am wondering on what basis tsunami alerts are cancelled and if these are readings taken from certain observational points that do not indicate the actual experience of people in remote areas, such as the Banks islands in Vanuatu which is some distance from Port Vila and closer to the epicentre and much more isolated. The Tonga experience in the recent quakes seems to indicate that some places are isolated and receive less immediate attention than others such as main towns.

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • elogha:

    08 Oct 2009 12:13:35pm

    wantoks in vanuatu, please keep alert at all times, iam praying for you guys. only Gods knowns our future.

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • Tabby:

    08 Oct 2009 12:23:21pm

    I thought tidal waves can also come without changing where the waterline is on the beach.. I don't know much at all about them though, so maybe that only happens in certain situations. But it's very scary how much seismic activity there's been lately. It's good that everyone's onto it right away, and warnings + evacuations are changing where necessary. I am thinking of all those affected, and those who are worried about being affected by these disasters. I don't know if this sounds like much, but i wish there was something i could do to help, in addition to donating to appeals. I want to be at any of those places, actually helping these people in any way i could.

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • Phil:

      08 Oct 2009 12:44:58pm

      Don't know about waterlines but tidal waves they are not! A tidal wave is what it's name suggests a wave generated by the tide. Tsunamis are a completely different kettle of fish and are generated by earthquakes, landslides and volcanic activity.

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • hugh jampton:

      08 Oct 2009 12:45:20pm

      There hasn't been an increase in seismic activity - only in the media reporting of it. There are hundreds of earthquakes over 4.5 every week and the number is not increasing.

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

  • Sharon:

    08 Oct 2009 1:01:05pm

    Waiting for 2hours, not knowing if a tsunami hit or not when hubby is over there for Holiday. No contact and no way of reaching him in Port Villa. Everything was shut down- people kicked out of hotels, shops shut, people panicked. Worst 2hrs just waiting helpless not knowing if he was ok. Now warnings have been lifted seems the area is safe.

    Agree (0) Alert moderator

    • Sono:

      08 Oct 2009 1:23:16pm

      There are plenty of high places in Port Vila to get to quickly enough so i wouldn't worry too much.

      Agree (0) Alert moderator

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