Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tsunami warning issued for NZealand, Samoa after quake

Updated on Wednesday, September 30, 2009

APIA: A powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.9 struck off the South Pacific island nation of Samoa on Tuesday, triggering a tsunami warning and sending coastal residents fleeing to higher ground.

The quake was strong enough for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre to issue a tsunami warning for a large swathe of the South Pacific including Fiji, New Zealand and Tonga.

"I'm taking my family to a safe place. Everyone's getting out of coastal areas," Samoa resident Keni Lesa told media in the capital Apia.

But Lesa said there was no panic as "we have done a lot of training for this" living on a low lying island in an earthquake prone area.

There were no immediate reports of damage from the earthquake, apart from a few landslips.

In a preliminary earthquake report, the US Geological Survey put the epicentre 204 kilometres south-southwest of Apia and at a depth of 85 kilometres.

The tsunami warning was also in effect for American Samoa, Samoa, Niue Island, the Wallis and Futuna Islands, the Tokelau atolls, the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Kermadec Islands, the Baker and Howland Islands, Jarvis Island, French Polynesia and the Palmyra Islands.

A tsunami watch was issued for Vanuatu, Nauru, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Kosrae Island, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, Pohnpei in Micronesia, the Wake Islands, Pitcairn and the Midway Islands.

"It is not known that a tsunami was generated," said a statement from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre.

"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 near the epicentre within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours.

"Authorities should take appropriate action in response to this possibility," the centre advised.

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