Tsunami warning after earthquake hits remote islands in south Pacific

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The Independent Online

Two earthquakes rocked the South Pacific near the Vanuatu archipelago last night triggering tsunami alerts as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

The first quake, with a magnitude of 7.8, struck 183 miles north-west of the Vanuatu island of Santo. Just 15 minutes later a second tremor with a magnitude 7.3 hit 21 miles farther north.

The incident comes less than a fortnight after devastating quakes hit the nearby islands of Samoa, killing at least 178 people, and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where the death toll is expected to exceed 1,000 after entire villages were destroyed and hundreds were buried alive. A tsunami warning was last night issued for 11 nations and territories, including Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Fiji and Kiribati.

The quake struck some 183 miles north-west of the Vanuatu island of Santo, more than 1,400 miles north-east of the Australian capital Sydney. There were no early reports of damage or injury or immediate reports of sea level rises, but forecasters on the island said it was too early to tell.

Police in the pacific island of New Caledonia were last night evacuating people from the island's eastern shore and from the nearby Loyalty Islands to higher ground.

News of the quake emerged just hours after the US Geological Survey reported an earthquake south of the Philippines, registering a preliminary magnitude of 6.7.