A major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 has struck off Papua New Guinea, just before midnight on the 29th March official monitors say, and a tsunami warning has been issued.
The quake was at a depth of 65 kilometres, 54 kilometres from the nearest city of Kokopo Panguna on New Britain and 790 kilometres from the PNG capital Port Moresby, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said.
Rabaul residents said, “the ground shook strongly for about five minutes but there does not appear to be any major damage”
The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System said wave peaks of 50 centimetres were recorded in locations close to the epicentre two minutes after the quake struck.
The initial quake was also followed by a smaller 5.7 magnitude aftershock in the same area.
PNG National Disaster Centre acting director Martin Mosa said there had been no reports of damage recorded from the central and northern parts of New Ireland province.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii said “based on preliminary earthquake parameters … hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 1,000 kilometres of the earthquake epicentre along the coasts of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands”.
It said no destructive, Pacific-wide tsunami was expected but waves reaching 1 to 3 metres above the tide level were possible along some coasts of Papua New Guinea.
Any tsunami risk was expected to be limited to PNG and the Solomon Islands.
The waves are forecast to be less than 30 centimetres above the tide level for the coasts of Australia, Japan, Philippines, New Caledonia, Northern Marianas, Guam, Palau, Yap, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae, Marshall Islands, Fiji, Samoa, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Tokelau, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Nauru, Wake Island, Johnston Island, Howland and Baker, Tonga, Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna, Solomon Islands, Indonesia and NW Hawaiian Islands.
Earthquakes are common in PNG, which sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.