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Powerful 7.3 quake hits off Papua New Guinea

Geologist measuring earthquake depth/FILE

Geologist measuring earthquake depth/FILE

SYDNEY, Apr 11 – A powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off Papua New Guinea on Friday, US officials said, but no Pacific-wide tsunami warning was sounded.

The US Geological Survey said the quake hit at an estimated depth of 54 kilometres (34 miles) at around the same distance west of the town of Panguna on the remote and volcanic Bougainville island.

Geoscience Australia estimated the quake at 7.4 magnitude and said the tremor, which hit close to the neighbouring Solomon Islands, was believed to be in the “shallow” range.

“They would have gotten a strong shake across the island, and there’s the possibility of some damage,” David Jepsen from Geoscience Australia told AFP.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center ruled out the threat of a Pacific-wide destructive tsunami but Jepsen cautioned that there was a “possibility of a local tsunami” in PNG.

Jepsen said while the quake was “pretty substantial”, the depth could not be accurately defined except that it was under 50 kilometres.

“If it’s really shallow like 10 (kilometres deep), there’s more possibility of (local) tsunami,” he said.

Quakes of such magnitude are common in the island nation, which sits on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.

In October, a 7.1-magnitude quake struck in the same area — around 65 kilometres west of Panguna.

In February 2013 the remote town of Lata in the Solomons was hit by a devastating tsunami after an 8.0-magnitude earthquake. The tsunami left at least 10 people dead, destroyed hundreds of homes and left thousands of people homeless.

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In 2007 a tsunami following an 8.0-magnitude earthquake killed at least 52 people in the Solomons and left thousands homeless.


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