A powerful earthquake struck off the island nation of Vanuatu on early Sunday morning, seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. No tsunami warnings were issued.
The 7.0-magnitude earthquake at 9.55 a.m. local time (2255 GMT Saturday) was centered about 70 kilometres south-southeast of the southernmost Vanuatu island of Aneityum, 125 km (78 miles) SSE (159°) from Isangel, Vanuatu, and 215 km (134 miles) ENE (61°) from Tadine, Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia.
It struck about 132.4 kilometers (82.3 miles) deep, making it an earthquake of intermediate depth, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
While there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, the USGS estimated that several hundred people may have felt strong shaking on nearby islands, which could potentially result in light to moderate damage. Another 63,000 people were estimated to having perceived light to moderate shaking.
Because the earthquake struck fairly deep, neither the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center nor the Vanuatu government issued a tsunami warning. “A destructive tsunami was not generated based on earthquake and historical tsunami data,” the agency said in a bulletin.
Vanuatu is on the so-called ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions also occur frequently in the region.
Two weeks ago, on August 21, two powerful earthquakes measuring 7.1 and 7.4 on the Richter scale also struck near Vanuatu, prompting a local tsunami warning and generating small tsunamis which hit the island of Efate. There were no reports of damage or casualties