Monday, August 9, 2010

7.6 Earthquake Strikes Vanuatu, Tsunami Warning Issued

Authorities in the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu have warned residents to seek higher ground after a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck at 4:24 PM local time on Tuesday. Although there are no reports of damage in the capital city of Port Villa, local police warned residents to take refuge in the hills fearing that the tremors could spawn a sizable tsunami.

Residents say that there was considerable shaking for about 15 seconds, but no apparent signs of damage. A warning was issued by the NOAA's Pacific Tsunami warning center, although it was considered unlikely that any tsunami generated by the quake would reach the west coast. Vanuatu sits on top of an active seismic and volcanic reigon that's part of the 'Ring of Fire' circling the Pacific. The island chain lies between Australia's northeastern coast and Fiji.

Earlier this year, plans were made to evacuate nearly 3000 villagers from Torba Province in the northern part of the country after the Gaua volcano there bombarded nearby towns with ash, sulfur and molten lava. Like the Icelandic volcano earlier, ash spewing from the Gaua volcano threatened to play havoc with international air travel.

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