Strong earthquake sends small tsunami waves towards South Pacific islands

The undersea quake hit off New Caledonia about 2.50pm local time and sent small waves towards the Loyalty Islands

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2018, 2:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2018, 8:52pm

A powerful undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 7.1 struck on Wednesday near New Caledonia in the South Pacific, creating small tsunami waves, but there were no reports of damage, regional officials said.

The quake hit at a shallow depth of 27km (17 miles) about 372km (230 miles) east of Noumea, the capital, the US Geological Survey said, estimating an initial magnitude of 7.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said the tsunami threat had largely passed, although there might be some movements in sea levels.

The biggest waves, just over 0.3 metres high (one foot), hit the main island of New Caledonia without consequence, said Olivier Ciry, the civil defence spokesman for the French Pacific territory.

“We felt it and they felt it more strongly on the Loyalty Islands,” he said. “There was some movement of the sea but no damage to buildings, no injuries to people and it’s over now.”

Gauges at Lenakel, a town in Vanuatu, about 300km (186 miles) from the epicentre, recorded waves 27cm (10 inches) high, the PTWC said.

It had warned against the risk of waves between 30cm (1 ft) and 1 metre (40 inches) higher than tide levels striking islands around the Pacific and as far away as Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. But no waves of that size were recorded.

“We’re still monitoring it and on standby but there’s nothing on the tide gauges for the time being,” said Laisenia Rawace, an official in Fiji’s seismology monitoring department.

Wednesday’s quake in the Pacific’s Ring of Fire came 10 days after a massive, but very deep, quake rocked the sea floor near Fiji and 11 months after big quakes hit near the Loyalty Islands, also without damage.