Tsunami warnings cancelled after twin quakes
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."
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.