Powerful earthquake strikes west of Vanuatu, no tsunami alert

February 2nd, 2012 - 10:09 pm ICT by BNO News  

PORT VILA (BNO NEWS) — A powerful earthquake struck the Pacific Ocean near the island nation of Vanuatu on early Friday morning, seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. No tsunami warning was issued.

The 7.1-magnitude earthquake at 12.34 a.m. local time (1334 GMT Thursday) was centered about 115 kilometers (71 miles) west of Efate, the most populous island in Vanuatu and home to the nation’s capital of Port Vila. It struck about 10.1 kilometers (6.3 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to seismologists in Vanuatu.

Light to strong shaking could be felt on islands near the epicenter, police said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) measured the strength of the earthquake at 6.9 on the regional moment magnitude scale.

Tsunami experts said there was no threat of a destructive tsunami, and there were no reports of unusual waves on nearby islands. “Based on all available and historical data; a destructive tsunami is not expected within Vanuatu,” the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department said in an advisory.

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. 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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