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Powerful earthquake strikes Malakula island in Vanuatu, tsunami alert issued


PUBLISHED Thu, April 28, 2016 - 3:52pm EDT


A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 has struck the island of Malakula in Vanuatu, seismologists say. There was no immediate word on damage or casualties but a tsunami alert that was issued has since been canceled. (more)





The earthquake, which struck at 6:33 a.m. local time on Friday, was centered on land about 5 kilometers (3 miles) southwest of Norsup, which is a village on Malakula island. It struck at a shallow depth of 35 kilometers (21 miles).

The United States Geological Survey (USGS), which put the preliminary magnitude at 7.0, said strong shaking was felt on the northern part of the island, though there was no immediate word from the region itself regarding damage or casualties.

Computer models from the USGS estimated that some 245,000 people across various islands may have felt the early-morning earthquake, including an estimated 18,000 people who may have perceived "strong" shaking.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, which initially put the preliminary magnitude at 7.3 before it was downgraded to 7.0, issued a tsunami alert for Vanuatu. It said tsunami waves reaching 1 to 3 meters (3.2 to 9.8 feet) above the tide level were possible along some coastal areas.

As a result, the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department issued a tsunami warning for eastern coastal areas of Malekula Island and the neighboring regions of Malampa, Sanma, and Penama.

The tsunami warning was canceled by 10 a.m. local time and people who had been evacuated from coastal areas were allowed to return home. "There were no reports of destructive tsunami being observed," the department said in a statement.

Other details were not immediately available.

Vanuatu is on the so-called 'Pacific Ring of Fire', an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. On average, the island nation and the surrounding waters are struck by about three powerful earthquakes every year. Volcanic eruptions also occur frequently in the region.

In August 2011, two powerful earthquakes measuring 7.1 and 7.4 on the Richter scale struck about 63 kilometers (39 miles) south-southwest of Port-Vila. Tsunami waves of up to 1.05 meter (3.4 feet) were observed on the island of Efate, but there were no reports of damage.

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