Tsunami warning after Papua New Guinea hit by 7.7 quake
The quake hit at a depth of 65 kilometers, some 54 kilometers from the nearest city of Kokopo on New Britain island
A 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Papua New Guinea Monday, U.S. seismologists said, with “hazardous” tsunami waves possible within 1,000 kilometers of the epicenter.
The quake hit at a depth of 65 kilometers, some 54 kilometers from the nearest city of Kokopo on New Britain island and 789 kilometers from the capital Port Moresby, the United States Geological Survey said.
“Based on preliminary earthquake parameters... hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 1,000 kilometers of the earthquake epicenter,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.
The tsunami risk was expected to be limited to PNG and the Solomon Islands.
The initial quake was followed by a smaller 5.7-magnitude aftershock in the same area.
Geoscience Australia seismologist Jonathan Bathgate said there was a possibility of a local tsunami but based on the magnitude of the quake it was likely to be on the lower end of the scale.
“Although people would have felt strong shaking... there’s probably not going to be a lot of widely spread damage,” he told AFP.
The nearest town of Kokopo, the capital of East New Britain, has a population of around 20,000. It started to grow after nearby Rabaul was flattened by volcanic eruptions in 1994.
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.
The last big tremor off the Pacific nation’s coast was a 6.8-magnitude quake that struck Bougainville island in December.
In 2013 the neighboring Solomon Islands were hit by a devastating tsunami after an 8.0-magnitude earthquake rattled the region.
That tsunami left at least 10 people dead, destroyed hundreds of homes and left thousands of people homeless.