Magnitude 8 Quake Near Solomon Islands Triggers Tsunami

A magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck off the Solomon Islands, generating a tsunami that destroyed at least 100 homes and killed several people in the South Pacific island chain, according to the aid organization World Vision.

A wave measuring 91 centimeters (3 feet) in height was recorded at Lata Wharf in Santa Cruz Islands, near the epicenter, and an 11-centimeter wave was recorded in Luganville, Vanuatu, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported. Tsunami warnings for several nations in the region, including Nauru, Fiji and New Caledonia were later canceled.

The sea surge following the earthquake cut water and electricity and forced about 4,000 people, including 20 World Vision staff members, to move to central Lata, about 150 meters above sea level, the aid agency said in an e-mailed statement. Government officials confirmed four people were killed and some may be missing, World Vision said.

“I’m knee-deep in water,” Jeremiah Tabua, World Vision’s emergency coordinator in the Solomon Islands, said in the statement. “I can see a number of houses that have been swept away.”

The quake struck at 12:12 p.m. local time, 81 kilometers (50 miles) west of Lata, at a depth of 5.8 kilometers, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor was followed by more than 70 aftershocks, three with magnitudes exceeding 6.0, which can cause considerable damage to buildings of ordinary construction, the USGS said on its website.

Higher Ground

Lata’s airport was flooded by the surge, World Vision said.

The earthquake was felt in the eastern provinces of the Solomon Islands, where people moved to higher ground as a precaution, Douglas Mapau, a senior political reporter at the Solomon Star in the capital of Honiara, said in a phone interview.

Australia doesn’t face a tsunami threat, the local Bureau of Meteorology said on its website. New Zealand canceled a potential tsunami threat warning, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management said in an e-mail. The Ministry said a minor threat remains on the west coast.

A tsunami may reach Japan, that country’s meteorological agency said on its website.

The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said no watches or warnings were in effect for the U.S.

The Solomon Islands archipelago, about 2,500 kilometers east of Australia, lies in the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and experiences frequent seismic tremors. About 50 people were killed and more than 5,000 left homeless there after an 8.1-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami in April 2007.

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