Vanuatu hit by 7.2 magnitude earthquake

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shakemap of the earthquake.
Image: United States Geological Survey.

Vanuatu has been hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake at 04:14 local time on Friday (17:14 UTC on Thursday). The epicenter was located 215 kilometers to the northwest of Luganville, Espíritu Santo, Vanuatu; 340 kilometers to the southeast of Lata, Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands; 485 kilometers to the northwest of Port-Vila, Vanuatu; and 2,070 kilometers to the northeast of Brisbane, Australia.

The earthquake had a depth of 36.1 kilometers, approximately 22.4 miles. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii issued a tsunami warning for Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia. They said on the report: "It is not known that a tsunami was generated. This warning is based only on the earthquake evaluation. An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicenter within minutes to hours." The Vanuatu government Meteorological Office reported infrastructure cracks, and power outages, but does not foresee major damage. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, CNN reported. USGS initially reported the earthquake as 7.6, but they later downgraded it. Magnitude 5.7, 5.2 and 6.4 aftershocks were reported later by USGS.

The tsunami warning was cancelled an hour after it was issued. Geophysicist Barry Hershorn said to The Huffington Post that they had confirmed there was no tsunami from ocean buoys and from coastal sea level gauges in Vanuatu. The Vanuatu goverment said they were pleased the tsunami alert had been canceled. "We haven't received any reports yet about earthquake damage," said Salesa Kaniaha, Meteorological Office acting director of Vanuatu. "The very close proximity [of the epicenter] to Espíritu Santo [the closest island] meant there was nothing much we could do to alert residents to any danger," he added.

Vanuatu is an insular country located in southern Pacific Ocean, located 1,750 kilometers to the east of Australia.

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