A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.8 has struck the Solomon Islands, prompting a tsunami alert for the region and a tsunami watch for Hawaii, seismologists say. Only few details were immediately available.
The earthquake, which struck at 17:38 UTC on Thursday, was centered about 68 kilometers (42 miles) southwest of Kirakira in the Solomon Islands, or 211 kilometers (127 miles) southeast of Honiara. It struck at a shallow depth of just 48 kilometers.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) puts the preliminary magnitude of the earthquake at 7.8, down from an initial estimate of 8.0. Strong shaking was felt across the region, but details about damage or casualties are not yet available.
Computer models from the USGS estimated that some 475,000 people on islands in the region may have felt the earthquake, including some 51,000 people who may have experienced “very strong” to “severe” shaking.
As a result, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami alert for the Solomon Islands, which could see tsunami waves up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) above the tide level, and Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, both of which could see tsunami waves up to 1 meter (3.3 feet).
“People living near the coasts should look out for unusual sea level rises,” the Solomon Islands Meteorological Service said in a warning. “These might be tsunamis. If you see anything unusual, you should get to high ground immediately.”
Other countries across the region could see tsunami waves less than 0.3 meter (0.9 feet) above the tide level, but those areas are not under a tsunami warning. Tsunami alerts were initially also issued for Hawaii and New Zealand before being canceled upon further review.
The Solomon Islands are 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. The Solomon Islands arc as a whole experiences a very high level of earthquake activity, and many tremors of magnitude 7 and larger have been recorded since the early decades of the twentieth century.
On April 2, 2007, a massive 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck close to the New Georgia Islands of the Solomon Islands. It unleashed a regional tsunami, killing 52 people and destroying more than 300 homes, schools and a hospital at Sasamunga. Two people were killed as a result of landslides, which were triggered by the earthquake. (source)
UPDATE: The tsunami alerts have been canceled.
A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.8 has struck the Solomon Islands, prompting a tsunami alert for the region, seismologists say. Details about damage and casualties were not immediately available. (more)