Tsunami alert trig­gered in New Caledonia

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

A POW­ER­FUL 7.5-mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck near New Caledonia on Wed­nes­day, trig­ger­ing a tsunami alert and emer­gency evac­u­a­tions across a swathe of the South Pa­cific, but there were no im­me­di­ate re­ports of se­ri­ous dam­age or in­juries.

Author­i­ties said the quake, fol­lowed by at least 10 strong af­ter­shocks, was cen­tred about 170km south­east of New Caledonia’s Loy­alty Is­lands at a depth of just 10km.

Tsunami waves were recorded mov­ing out from the epi­cen­tre, prompt­ing res­i­dents to flee to high ground and trig­ger­ing surges as high as 72cm – on the is­land of Tanna, Van­u­atu.

Is­land res­i­dents said the ini­tial quake shook the walls of build­ings and in places turned the sea foamy.

The Pa­cific Tsunami Warn­ing Cen­ter ini­tially warned waves of up to three me­tres could be ex­pected and shal­low qua kes of t hat mag­ni­tude ca n be dev­as­tat­ing.

But the cen­tre later re­ported waves mea­sured by its mon­i­tors around the re­gion only reached about 72cm.

Civil de­fence of­fi­cials in Noumea said tsunami waves hit parts of the Loy­alty Is­lands and the Isle of Pines, but caused no dam­age.

“Re­ports from the area con­firm that the strength of the tsunami has fallen sig­nif­i­cantly and there is no longer a ma­jor risk for the pop­u­la­tion,” said a spokes- man for the civil de­fence de­part­ment.

Al­most three hours af­ter the quake, the Hawaii-based Pa­cific Tsunami Warn­ing Cen­ter re­ported the threat stem­ming from the ini­tial quake “has now passed”.

The quake trig­gered emer­gency warn­ing sys­tems in New Caledonia, where res­i­dents re­ceived an ur­gent text mes­sage di­rect­ing them to go to refuges im­me­di­ately.

Basile Citre, a mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cial on the Loy­alty Is­land of Mare, said he had been in a meet­ing at the town hall when he felt a small tremor fol­lowed by a big­ger shock.

“When the sirens sounded, the pop­u­la­tion headed for higher ground for safety. For now, noth­ing se­ri­ous has hap­pened,” he said.

A spokesman for the Van­u­atu geo­haz­ards ob­ser­va­tory said the sparsely pop­u­lated is­land of Tanna was ex­pected to be most af­fected but no evac­u­a­tions had been or­dered.

“There are no sirens on Tanna but the peo­ple on the is­land are fa­mil­iar with these sit­u­a­tions and they will have taken pre­cau­tions and gone to higher ground,” he said.

As mul­ti­ple af­ter­shocks of up to 6.6 mag­ni­tude were felt, CCTV footage showed bathers still frol­ick­ing in crys­talline seas off Noumea, seem­ingly un­aware of the se­ri­ous­ness of the threat on the other coast, just 50km away.

AFP

Michael Flynn leaves court af­ter a pre-sen­tenc­ing hear­ing on July 10 in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

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