Powerful quake hits off New Caledonia, small tsunami waves generated

A powerful undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 7.1 struck near New Caledonia in the South Pacific on Wednesday, creating small tsunami waves, officials in the region said.

The quake struck at a shallow depth of 10 km (6 miles) some 372 km (230 miles) east of the New Caledonian capital, Noumea, according to the US Geological Survey. It was initially reported as magnitude 7.

No damage was reported but hazardous tsunami waves of up to a meter (3.3 feet) were possible in New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu, the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a bulletin.

Waves measuring 30 cm (1 foot) were possible on island coastlines around the Pacific and as far away as Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, it said.

New Caledonia's Civil Defence spokesman Olivier Ciry said waves measuring 40 cm (16 inches) were recorded on the main island of New Caledonia.

They only reached 5 cm high at the Loyalty Islands, which are about 100 km (60 miles) closer to the epicenter, he said.

"We felt it and they felt it more strongly on the Loyalty Islands ... there was some movement of the sea but no damage to buildings, no injuries to people and it's over now," Ciry said.

Laisenia Rawace, technical officer at Fiji's seismology monitoring department, said by phone from Suva: "We're still monitoring it and on standby but there's nothing on the tide gauges for the time being."

The area is located on the earthquake-prone Pacific Rim of Fire. The latest tremor struck 10 days after a massive but very deep quake rocked the sea floor near Fiji and 11 months after big quakes hit near the Loyalty Islands, also without damage.

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