A powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of New Caledonia on Wednesday (Dec 5), triggering a tsunami alert and emergency evacuations across the South Pacific, but there were no reports of serious damage or injuries.
The quake, followed by at least 20 strong aftershocks, was centred about 170 kilometres southeast of New Caledonia’s Loyalty Islands at a depth of just 10 kilometres.
Tsunami waves were recorded moving out from the epicentre, prompting people to flee to high ground.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially warned surges of up to three metres could be expected and shallow quakes of that magnitude can be devastating.
But the centre later reported waves measured by its monitors around the region only reached about 72 centimetres on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu.
“Reports from the area confirm that the strength of the tsunami has fallen significantly and there is no longer a major risk for the population,” said a spokesman for the civil defence department.
Almost three hours after the quake, the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported the threat stemming from the initial quake “has now passed”.
Image for illustration.