Tsunami warnings have been lifted following a magnitude 7.7 earthquake that struck beneath the Pacific Ocean southeast of New Caledonia.
The major quake was detected at a depth of 37km (23 miles), the US Geological Survey said on Friday, and countries across the Pacific issued alerts for the threat of tsunamis.
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The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said waves of less than half a metre (1.5 feet) were measured off Lenakel, a port town in the island nation of Vanuatu. Smaller waves were measured elsewhere off Vanuatu and off New Caledonia.
Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office had earlier advised people to evacuate from coastal areas to higher ground, according to an information bulletin alert.
New Caledonia, where police had evacuated the coast and tsunami sirens were activated, also lifted its alert later in the day.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said there was no tsunami threat to mainland Australia but Lord Howe Island – located 780km (421 nautical miles) northeast of Sydney in the Tasman Sea – was under a threat warning.
#LordHoweIsland under #Tsunami Warning to the marine environment after magnitude 7.7 #earthquake near Southeast of Loyalty Islands. No threat to Mainland Australia. 8cm Tsunami Wave observed in New Caledonia. Latest info here: https://t.co/Tynv3ZQpEq. pic.twitter.com/nvK3yXbDXx
— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) May 19, 2023
New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency said strong and unusual currents and coastal surges could be expected along coastal areas, though there was no need to evacuate as inundation was not expected.
A national advisory remained in place for New Zealand on Friday evening warning people in or near the sea to “move out of the water, off beaches and shore areas and away from harbours, marinas, rivers or estuaries”.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center also said small waves were possible for Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Guam and other Pacific islands.
The area is part of the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur.
The first tsunami activity causing these strong currents and surges may reach New Zealand in the areas around North Cape at approximately 5:00pm. This may be later and the first tsunami activity may not be the most significant. More info at https://t.co/ccVFYR8001
— National Emergency Management Agency (@NZcivildefence) May 19, 2023