Tsunami warning for 3 Pacific islands after earthquake

SYDNEY, Australia – A tsunami warning was issued for New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu Wednesday, August 29, after a strong earthquake in the Pacific Ocean, although seismologists said there were no immediate reports of damage.

After the 7.1 magnitude quake struck off the eastern coast of New Caledonia, "waves reaching 0.3 to 1 meter above the tide level are possible," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

It urged anyone near the coast to "stay alert" and follow instructions from local authorities.

Smaller waves were forecast for other Pacific nations including the Marshall islands, Samoa and New Zealand, although New Zealand was quick to distance the country from any threat.

"We want to confirm that there is no tsunami threat to New Zealand from this earthquake," said the ministry of civil defense and emergency management.

Jonathan Hanson, duty seismologist at New Zealand's GNS Science, also downplayed any major threat to Pacific nations, saying the epicenter was some distance from inhabited islands and the tsunami wave warnings were modest.

"The tsunami wave sizes we've seen reported are 16-17 centimeters (6.3-6.7 inches) at two New Caledonia stations. At those sizes we wouldn't expect any damage," he told Agence France-Presse.

The tremor hit at a depth of 27 kilometers (17 miles) in the southern Pacific Ocean, some 231 kilometers from the nearest town Tadine in the lightly-populated Loyalty Islands, the US Geological Survey said.

Geoscience Australia said shaking would have been felt throughout New Caledonia, but it put the damage radius at 103 kilometers – well away from land.

New Caledonia, a French overseas territory, Fiji and Vanuatu are located within the "Ring of Fire," a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific that is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. – Rappler.com