Strong earthquake strikes off Tonga, no damage reported

December 26th, 2011 - 10:15 pm ICT by BNO News  

HIHIFO, TONGA (BNO NEWS) — A strong earthquake struck off the Pacific island nation of Tonga on early Monday evening, seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The 6.0-magnitude earthquake at 6.48 p.m. local time (0448 GMT) was centered about 28 kilometers (17 miles) south-southwest of Hihifo, the main village on the island of Niuatoputapu in Tonga. It struck about 78.6 kilometers (48.8 miles) deep, making it an earthquake of intermediate depth, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, but the USGS estimated that several thousand people on the island of Niuatoputapu may have felt moderate shaking which would unlikely result in serious damage. No tsunami alert was issued.

Tonga 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, which is one of the most geologically active parts in the world.

Tonga, with a population of around 104,000 people, is made up of 169 islands sprinkled over the Pacific Ocean about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii. Only thirty-nine of the islands are inhabited.

On September 29, 2009, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck 185 kilometers (115 miles) east-northeast of Hihifo on Tonga, unleashing large tsunamis that killed nearly 200 people and injured hundreds more in Tonga, American Samoa, Samoa, and other nearby islands.

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