Saturday, December 25, 2010

7.3 quake triggers tsunami alert

A powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck off the western Pacific island of Vanuatu on Sunday, triggering a small tsunami. The event occurred exactly six years after giant waves killed 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

The earthquake struck at 12:16 am on Sunday (13:16 GMT Saturday) and was initially categorised a 7.6 magnitude but was later downgraded. The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the shallow quake generated a tsunami, but it cancelled the regional warning after the wave measured only 15 centimetres higher than normal in Vanuatu.

Media was initially slow to put out bulletins of the earthquake, partly due to the holiday celebrations ongoing around the globe. Breaking News [BNO] tweeted it's first report at 13:31. Its founder Michael van Poppel tweeting the news only 2 minutes before also made comment that the news wires were "sleeping" some ten minutes later. Only then did Sky News report the event and then 2 minutes later Reuters released its first wire report, some 27 minutes after the quake struck. Fortunately the quake did not bring serious damage.

Jackie Philip, a member of staff at the Melanesian Port Vila Hotel in the Vanuatu capital, said the hotel was busy with late-night Christmas revellers when the quake struck. "Some of us, we ran outside and stood and watched the sea for a few minutes but nothing happened. There is no damage and no injuries," he said, adding that no tsunami warning had been given on local radio.

Vanuatu lies between Australia and Fiji and is part of the "Pacific Ring of Fire". The island has a population of 220,000 scattered across several islands including Tanna, south of Port Vila, where the fiery Yasur volcano is a major tourist attraction. [AFP / USGS].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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