HONIARA – A tsunami forecasted to hit areas of the South Pacific Ocean following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake near the Solomon Islands has ended without any reported incidents.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at 9:38 a.m. PT Thursday (4:30 a.m. Friday in the Solomon Islands) about 200 kilometres southeast of the capital, Honiara.
The epicentre was relatively deep at 41 kilometres below the surface. Deeper quakes generally cause less damage on the ground.
Solomon Islands National Disaster Management Office director Loti Yates said he had received reports of collapsed buildings in villages in Makira, the island closest to the epicentre of the massive undersea quake, which had initially prompted a tsunami watch as far afield as Hawaii.
“Villages that we have made contact with have evacuated. Actually, most of the communities that we have spoken with had already evacuated,” Yates said.
Yates said the authorities in the Solomons had not received any reports of deaths but would start to assess the damage as morning dawned. Some 50,000 people live in Makira province.
Tsunami Threat Passed
After the quake, a tsunami watch was issued and then upgraded to a “tsunami threat forecast” that waves of one to three metres could hit the Solomon Islands, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC).
The PTWC also cautioned waves of up to one metre could hit the nearby coasts of Papua New Guineau and Vanuatu as well.
Waves of less than 0.3 metres were forecast for other areas, including Australia, Fiji, Indonesia and New Zealand.
About two hours after the quake, the forecast was downgraded to say that the threat had passed and only minor sea-level fluctuations were recorded.
Royal Solomon Islands Police Force spokesman Reginald Tungi said it is too early to determine the extent of the damage remote areas, according to Stuff.co.nz.
He said power and mobile phone coverage was spotty in Honiara.
“It seems OK, nothing is majorly damaged, but it is too soon after 4am [the time the quake struck] to know completely,” he said.
However local Tali Hong wrote on Twitter that there was a blackout across Honiara.
The Solomon Islands quake comes after a shallow 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck western Indonesia before dawn on Wednesday, killing at least 102 people and injuring more than 750.
Search and rescue crews using advanced life-detecting devices have been searching for any sign of movement, as hopes fade of finding any more survivors.