Tsunami threat in South Pacific after 7.7-magnitude earthquake

Vanuatu warns its citizens to seek higher ground

Lataro Island, Vanuatu. Photo: Vladi Private Islands
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A 7.7-magnitude earthquake rocked the French territory of New Caledonia, south-east of the Loyalty Islands on Friday, creating small tsunami waves in Vanuatu.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said it measured waves less than half a metre high off Lenakel, a port town in the island country. Smaller waves were measured elsewhere off Vanuatu and off New Caledonia.

It also said tsunami waves ranging from 0.3m to a metre above the tide level are possible for some coasts of Vanuatu.

New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency said it was still assessing the potential for a tsunami.

The PTWC also said small waves were possible for Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Guam and other Pacific islands.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was near the Loyalty Islands, south-west of Fiji, north of New Zealand and east of Australia where the Coral Sea meets the Pacific. It was 37 kilometres deep.

Vanuatu advised residents to seek higher ground, according to an official at the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department, who said the office had received calls from people on the southern islands who had felt shaking.

Australia's meteorology bureau issued a tsunami threat for Lord Howe Island, off its east coast and warned the estimated 450 inhabitants to leave the water's edge due to waves and strong currents.

"We haven't moved to higher ground and we're probably not going to," said Damien Ball of the Thompsons General Store on Lord Howe Islands. "We've been through this numerous times before and nothing ever comes of it."

Updated: May 19, 2023, 8:39 AM