Powerful magnitude 7.5 earthquake hits New Caledonia, evacuations ordered

NASA/GSFC/Landsat/Wikimedia CommonsLagoons and Reefs of New Caledonia

A powerful magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck off the coast of New Caledonia on Wednesday, prompting evacuation orders and tsunami warnings in Vanuatu and Fiji.

The quake occurred at a shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) below the sea and about 168 kilometers (104 miles) east of Tadine Bay in New Caledonia. Earthquakes are typically more destructive when the epicentre is closer to the surface.

No damages or injuries have been reported as of Wednesday evening.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued warnings of tsunami waves of between 1 and 3 meters (3 and 10 feet) along the Southern Pacific, including in Vanuatu and Fiji.

The center added that there was no threat to Hawaii.

Authorities issued evacuation warnings as several aftershocks hit the region. The New Caledonian high commission initially issued a tsunami warning for all the country, but downgraded the warning for the country’s west coast.

initially issued a tsunami warning for all of New Caledonia, ordering the “immediate evacuation” of people to refuge areas and the “application of safety instructions”.

New Caledonia sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity. The Loyalty Islands region is active seismically, and has seen several large earthquakes in recent months.

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