New Caledonia earthquake: Tsunami warning issued after powerful 7.6-magnitude quake strikes in Pacific

Adam Withnall

Evacuations were underway on Wednesday after a tsunami warning was issued following a huge 7.6 magnitude earthquake off the coast of New Caledonia in the Pacific.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre warned waves of between 3ft and 10ft were possible along the eastern coasts of the islands of New Caledonia, which lies 800 miles east of Australia, and Vanuatu, 400 miles to the north. The warning was later lifted.

The epicentre of the earthquake was at the relatively shallow depth of 10km (6 miles) deep, about 155 km (95 miles) southeast of the Loyalty Islands on New Caledonia’s east coast.

Earthquakes are generally more destructive when the epicentre is near the surface.

At least six aftershocks also rattled the region, ranging in size from 5.6 to 6.6 magnitude.

New Caledonia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic activity occur.

Local authorities in New Caledonia ordered residents to evacuate coastal zones on the eastern edge of the archipelago, including the Iles Loyaute islands and Ile des Pins island. The evacuation order from the regional police said western islands didn’t need to evacuate but should remain vigilant.

Judith Rostain, a freelance journalist based in New Caledonia’s capital Noumea, told the AP there was no damage to the city and that the threat of a tsunami appeared to have passed. She said the situation remained unclear on the east coast and scattered outer islands.

On Vanuatu, Dan McGarry said he heard only of three small wave surges hitting the southern island of Aneityum. Mr McGarry, the media director at the Vanuatu Daily Post, said the waves travelled only a couple of metres (7 feet) beyond the normal tidal waves, and that everybody was fine on the island.

McGarry said he felt the quake where he is based in Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila, as a mild shaking.

“We get a lot of earthquakes every year,” he said. “The tsunami warning was what was different this time, though.”

Additional reporting by agencies