Pacific on alert after quakes: Australian media

10:40, October 08, 2009      

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Residents of parts of Tuvalu and New Caledonia are being evacuated after two powerful earthquakes hit the Vanuatu region, Australian Associated Press reports Thursday.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded a 7.8 magnitude earthquake 295 km northwest off the Espiritu Santo islands in neighboring Vanuatu.

About 15 minutes later a 7.3 magnitude quake was recorded 330 km northwest of Luganville - about 1,950 km northeast of Brisbane, Queensland's capital.

Tsunami warning sirens sounded in coastal areas and schools were being evacuated, AFP reported.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a regional tsunami warning for 11 nations and territories, including Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Fiji and Kiribati.

A tsunami watch is still current for New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Solomons, but has been cancelled for north Queensland.

The latest warning comes two weeks after a quake of magnitude 8.3 rocked the South Pacific near Samoa, sparking tsunami waves that killed at least 178 people and devastated coastal villages in Samoa, American Samoa and in northern Tonga.

Tony Leggett, from the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center, said while the alert for Queensland waters had been cancelled, outer reef scuba divers should be wary. "There may be some unusual currents around for the next few hours," he told Sky News on Thursday.

Source: Xinhua
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