Small tsunami after huge earthquake off Tonga

March 20th, 2009 - 9:50 am ICT by admin  

New York, NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) — A massive and potentially destructive earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 struck 130 miles southeast of Nuku’alofa, Tonga on Thursday, according to the United States Geological Survey. Officials confirmed a small tsunami was generated and canceled all tsunami warnings about 2 hours after the first warning was issued.

The earthquake struck at 6.17 p.m. GMT although the shaking was not expected to cause significant damage as the epicenter was located far from land. Residents in Tonga, about 130 miles from the epicenter, reported feeling moderate shaking at around 6.17 a.m. local time. It was not immediately clear if it caused any damage.

The earthquake did, however, generate a small tsunami which struck Niue, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center confirmed in a statement. Niue is a small island located in the South Pacific Ocean and is commonly known as the “Rock of Polynesia”. The island has a population of about 1,700 people. The warning center said the tsunami had a height of about 4 centimeters although it may have been higher or smaller depending on local conditions.

Tsunami warnings were immediately issued for Tonga, Niue, the Kermadec Islands, American Samoa, Samoa, Wallis-Futuna and Fiji after the earthquake was detected. About two hours later, authorities determined there was no further risk of a tsunami.

Although no tsunami warning or advisory was ever in effect for Hawaii, some coastal areas in Hawaii may experience small non-destructive sea level changes and strong or unusual currents lasting up to several hours. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said such effects might begin at 2.36 p.m. local time.

The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami risk to the United States. The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre also said the Australian mainland, islands or territories were never at risk.

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