By Bob Makin and BMO News
A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 earthquake struck Vanuatu about 1km off Malekula early today, seismologists say.
The quake, at 6.33am, was shallow, only 27km deep, and sparked a local tsunami warning which was cancelled shortly after.
It was felt throughout the country, and was strong enough to knock down shelves from Luganville to Vila.
Nothing more serious has been reported from areas closer to the quake’s epicentre.
The earthquake was centered on land about 5 km south-west of Norsup, a village on Malekula Island.
The United States Geological Survey, which put the preliminary magnitude at 7.0, said strong shaking was felt on the northern part of the island, though there was no immediate word from the region itself regarding damage or casualties.
Computer models from the USGS estimated that some 245,000 people across various islands may have felt the early-morning earthquake, including an estimated 18,000 people who may have perceived “strong” shaking.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, which initially put the preliminary magnitude at 7.3 before it was downgraded to 7.0, issued a tsunami alert for Vanuatu.
It said tsunami waves reaching 1 to 3 meters above the tide level were possible along some coastal areas.
As a result, the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department issued a tsunami warning for eastern coastal areas of Malekula Island and the neighboring regions of Malampa, Sanma, and Penama.
The tsunami warning was canceled by 10 am local time and people who had been evacuated from coastal areas were allowed to return home.
“There were no reports of destructive tsunami being observed,” the department said in a statement.