Tsunami warnings for New Zealand, Fiji and the rest of the Pacific have been cancelled following a massive 8,0 quake in Tonga, United States tsunami monitors said on Wednesday.
”The tsunami warning has been cancelled for the entire Pacific region,” said geophysicist Vindel Hsu, of the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre. ”There is no danger at this moment.”
A small tsunami was generated off the Pacific islands of Niue and Pago Pago following the quake in Tonga. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said a half-metre tsunami welled up in the Pacific but that it did not appear to be destructive.
Earlier, monitors had issued a tsunami warning for New Zealand and Fiji, calling on the countries to take immediate action against a possible giant wave caused by the quake.
There were few early reports of injury or damage in Tonga, although a hotel guest hurt his leg when he jumped from a third-floor window.
”He was the only tourist injured. He jumped from his room, maybe he was afraid,” said William Vea, the night receptionist at the Pacific Royale hotel.
Other guests walked out of hotels in the South Pacific island nation popular with tourists and waited patiently in the streets until they were allowed back to their rooms.
The quake’s epicentre was 155km south of Neiafu island and 160km north-east of Nuku’Alofa, the main island of Tonga, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said.
The quake was recorded 16km below the Earth’s surface, a relatively shallow distance that increases the likelihood of a tsunami.
”We have a tsunami warning for Fiji and New Zealand and for the rest of the Pacific we have a tsunami watch,” said Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre oceanographer Nathan Becker earlier on Wednesday evening. ”That means a tsunami is likely and New Zealand and Fiji should take the appropriate action.”
The quake was the largest recorded by the USGS since an 8,6 temblor off the Indonesian island of Sumatra in March 2005.
On December 26 2004, an earthquake measuring 9,0 on the Richter scale struck off the Indonesian province of Aceh, unleashing a tsunami that killed 220 000 people around the Indian Ocean, most in Aceh.
The kingdom of Tonga is an independent monarchy, part of the Commonwealth. It is located about a third of the way between New Zealand and Hawaii, south of Samoa and east of Fiji.
Geologically, the Tongan islands generally comprise two types: volcanic islands rising directly from the ocean floor and seismically uplifted coral limestone islands overlaying an older volcanic base, according to Wikipedia.com.