|A map by the United States Geological Survey shows the location of the 6.9-magnitude earthquake Wednesday off the coast of Fiji islands 176 miles south of the capital of Suva at a depth of 9.5 miles. Screenshot: USGA|
SYDNEY (Reuters) - A tsunami threat to Fiji has been cancelled, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said on Wednesday, shortly after a powerful earthquake struck off the South Pacific island nation, prompting many panicked coastal residents to evacuate to higher ground.
The quake, which hit at 10.52 a.m.(2152 GMT Tuesday), was centred 280 km (175 miles) southwest of Fiji's capital, Suva, at a shallow depth of about 15 km (9 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was originally recorded with a magnitude of 7.2 but was later downgraded to 6.9.
There were no initial reports of widespread casualties or damage.
Fiji's national disaster office issued a nationwide tsunami warning after the powerful underwater quake, leading to widespread evacuations and traffic jams.
"The earthquake caused a fair bit of panic, there are cars lined up trying to get to higher ground," Jovesa Saladoka, the Fiji director of Oxfam, told Reuters by telephone from Suva.
Corrine Ambler, a Red Cross worker in Suva, said on Twitter all Red Cross staff and most of the capital was "headed to higher ground".
At least two aftershocks with magnitudes of more than 5 rattled Fiji soon after the quake.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cancelled the tsunami threat to Fiji just over an hour after the first tremor.
There was no threat to nearby Pacific island nations Vanuatu and New Caledonia, authorities said.
6.9-magnitude earthquake rattles Fiji
A 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck Fiji on Wednesday, prompting evacuations but no reports of damage in the capital of Suva.
The quake, which hit at 9:54 a.m. Wednesday, was centered 176 miles south of the capital at a depth of 9.5 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center withdrew a tsunami warning for parts of the Pacific.
Radio New Zealand reported evacuations in the Fijian tourist hub of Nadi.
Red Cross Australia aid worker Susan Slattery told ABC News Online in Australia that "pretty much everybody in Suva" evacuated buildings for higher land after the quake. "Certainly the whole city was on the move.
Some power outages also were reported.
A 6.3-magnitude quake hit 362 miles south of Suva on Monday at a depth of 345 miles.
Spiro Spiliopoulos, senior seismologist at Geoscience Australia, told ABC News Online said the tremors were close to a tectonic plate boundary between the Australian plate and the Pacific plate.
"This is unusual in that it occurred a little bit away from the plate boundary," he told the ABC. "They have the potential to generate tsunamis."
Powerful 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Off The Coast Of Fiji
A powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.2 struck off the island nation of Fiji on Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)said.
The quake, which struck at 10:52 a.m. (2152 GMT on Tuesday), was located 175 miles (282 km) southwest Fiji’s capital, Suva, at a shallow depth of 9.4 miles (15 km), the USGS said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a local tsunami warning and said that hazardous tsunami waves were possible and could strike the coastline of Fiji by 11:45 a.m. (2245 GMT on Tuesday).
“We felt it ever so slightly in Suva,” Sune Gudnizt, head of the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told Reuters by telephone.