Powerful earthquake rocks Vanuatu archipelago

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Friday, January 13, 2023

A shake map of the earthquake published January 8 with a tsunami near Port Olry.
Image: United States Geological Survey.

An earthquake with the likely magnitude of 7.0 struck the Oceanian nation of Vanuatu at 11:30 PM VUT Saturday (10:30 UTC Sunday). There were no reports of casualties.

A tsunami warning for "waves reaching 0.3 to one meter [3.9 feet] above the tide level" along the coasts of Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands issued by the United States Geological Survey after the quake was quickly lifted after none materialized.

The French Embassy in Port Vila also issued a statement on its Facebook page urging residents to "stay away from the coasts until the alert is lifted" ((fr))French language: ‍Il convient de s'éloigner des côtes jusqu'à la levée de l'alerte.

22-year-old college student Kayson Pore, who lives on Vanuatu's largest island Espiritu Santo, told Agence France-Presse: "We were right on the sea, we were looking for crab on the coast," when he experienced a "very huge" quake. "We ran for our lives and then we ran to our homes […] people were moving to higher ground" to avoid a tsunami.

Some residents reported damaged items on social media. Pore said the quake had knocked over and shattered cups in his kitchen, but that he saw no serious damage to homes in his town of 1,000, Hog Harbour.

The New Zealand National Emergency Management Agency said they did not expect any tsunamis to affect their coast.

The Vanuatuan islands lie along the convergent boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, part of the Ring of Fire along which seismic activity frequently occurs.

In November, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook the Solomon Islands but did not cause serious casualties or destruction. In 2018, 4,300 people died or went missing in a magnitude 7.5 earthquake on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Last year's WorldRiskReport, which assesses the disaster risk of 193 countries, ranked Vanuatu 49th on its WorldRiskIndex ((de))German language: ‍WeltRisikoIndex.