A 7.0 magnitude earthquake has struck the South Pacific Ocean nation Vanuatu, the United States Geological Survey has said, triggering a tsunami warning for the region that was withdrawn hours later.
The quake hit around 11:30pm local time (12:30 GMT) on Sunday. It was centred 23km (14 miles) from Port Olry and hit at a depth of 27km (17 miles), the agency said.
Notable quake, preliminary info: M 7.0 – 23 km WNW of Port-Olry, Vanuatu https://t.co/06FQfghHrz
— USGS Earthquakes (@USGS_Quakes) January 8, 2023
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said that a tsunami threat it had issued for nearby Vanuatu coasts has passed.
Some Vanuatu residents fled to higher ground after the warning was first issued.
Kayson Pore, a 22-year-old student from the village of Hog Harbour in Espiritu Santo, said he felt a “very huge” shaking of the earth.
“We were right on the sea, we were looking for crab on the coast,” he said. “We ran for our lives and then we ran to our homes.”
At his home in the village of about 1,000 people, the quake had knocked objects to the ground, breaking cups in the kitchen, Pore said.
“People were moving to higher ground,” he added, for fear of a tsunami tidal wave. But Pore said he had seen no structural damage to homes in his village.
There have been no reports of damage or casualties so far.
Vanuatu has a population of 280,000 people and consists of several dozen islands. It sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide, and it experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity.
In November, a nearby island nation north of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, was hit with a 7.0 quake. There were no reports of serious injuries or damages.
The coastal regions of nearby Papua New Guinea were put on alert for tsunami waves of up to 30cm (12 inches).
The French embassy in Vanuatu advised people to stay away from the coasts in a post on its official Facebook page.