The epicentre of the 7.6 quake off New Caledonia. Source: USGS
The epicentre of the 7.6 quake off New Caledonia. Source: USGS

Quakes leave New Caledonia on high alert

A POWERFUL magnitude 7.6 earthquake and multiple aftershocks have struck off the coast of New Caledonia in the Loyalty Islands.

The first quake, which struck about 3.30pm AEDT, appears to have been shallow - at just 10km beneath the Earth's surface.

At least five aftershocks also hit, ranging in magnitude from 5.6 to 6.0, within about 90 minutes.

 

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre immediately issued a warning that hazardous tsunami waves could affect locations up to 1000km away - including New Caledonia and Vanuatu - and that tsunami waves had been observed.

The PTWC said tsunami waves of between one and three metres were possible, while waves of up to one metre were possible in Fiji, but there were no initial reports of destructive waves or major damage.

The first tsunami wave reading in New Caledonia was just 38cm but in its official warning the PWTC noted: "A tsunami is a series of waves and the time between waves can be five minutes to one hour."

The quake struck off the coast of New Caledonia. File pic: Martial Dosdane
The quake struck off the coast of New Caledonia. File pic: Martial Dosdane

Authorities in the French South Pacific territory urged people to move to locations more than 300 metres distant from the shore, and if possible, to sites higher than 12 metres above sea level.

"We have set off the alarm on the exterior of New Caledonia but we don't have any immediate assessment of potential damage," said a spokeswoman for the Directorate for Civil Protection and Risk Management.

Residents also received text messages directing them to go to refuges.

But people in New Caledonia and nearby Vanuatu said they did not feel the quake, and tsunami warning sirens were not immediately activated in Vanuatu.

The tsunami warning has since been cancelled. 

 

 



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