Tsunami warning as 7.9 magnitude earthquake strikes off Papua New Guinea coast

Alert issued after quake strikes Bougainville Island in the Pacific Ocean

Caroline Mortimer
Sunday 22 January 2017 09:12 GMT
The earthquake struck the island of Bourgainville at 4:30am local time
The earthquake struck the island of Bourgainville at 4:30am local time (EPA)

A 7.9 magnitude earthquake has struck off the east coast of Papua New Guinea near the Solomon Islands.

The quake struck the Papua New Guinean island of Bougainville on the border with the Solomon Islands at around 4:30am local time at a depth of 131 miles.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially warned that waves of up to a metre above tide level could strike several coasts along the islands but it said the threat has now passed.

An additional warning was issued to Australia, Samoa, New Zealand, Indonesia, Tonga, New Caledonia and several smaller surrounding islands for smaller waves of up to 0.3 metres above tide level.

The size of the quake was also downgraded to 7.9 magnitude following initially reports of 8.0 and there were no reports of injury or damage.

The greatest tsunami threat had been to Bougainville and that threat had passed without any report of a tsunami, Chris McKee, the assistant director of the Papua New Guinea Geophysical Observatory, said.

"I suspect that because of the great depth of the earthquake, there was probably no significant tsunami," Mr McKee said. He added that the area in which the earthquake struck was sparsely populated.

Solomons government official George Herming said he was not aware of any major tremors being felt in his country or any tsunami.

The countries are located in the Pacific's geologically active "Ring of Fire" – where large amounts of seismic activity occurs due to friction between tectonic plates.

Loti Yates, the director of the Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office, said people had been told to move to higher ground in Choiseul and Western Province.

"That isn't the only fear we have," Yates told Reuters by phone from the capital of Honiara, adding that his office was trying to contact communities closest to the quake's epicentre. "We are also worried about damage from the earthquake."

Chris McKee, assistant director at PNG's Geophysical Observatory Office in Port Moresby, said there were no initial reports of damage from near the epicentre of the quake, which is sparsely populated.

"Because of the great depth of the earthquake it is unlikely that there will be any significant tsunami activity," McKee told Reuters.

Australia and New Zealand both said they had assessed the threat and there was no danger to their coastlines.

Bougainville Island is one of the islands that make up the Autonomous Region of Bougainville within Papua New Guinea(PNG) which is home to around 300,000 people.

Additional reporting by agencies

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