Ed Driscoll

Massive Earthquake Rocks Pacific Ocean

Breaking News Online notes:

vanuatu_oct09A massive earthquake rocked the Pacific Ocean on Thursday morning, according to seismologists, followed by another huge tremor about fifteen minutes later.

The initial earthquake, which struck about 232 miles north-northwest of Vanuatu’s Santo, had a preliminary magnitude of 8.1, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. The United States Geological Survey reported it as a 7.8-magnitude.

The first quake happened at 9.03 a.m. local time (22.03 UTC Wednesday). A spokeswoman for the United States Geological Survey told BNO News that an aftershock, with a preliminary 7.3-magnitude, struck about 15 minutes later. The epicenter of the second tremor was located about 205 miles northwest of Luganville on Vanuatu’s Espiritu.

Tsunami warnings have immediately been issued for Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Kiribati, Kosrae, wallis-Futuna and Howland-Baker.

A tsunami watch is also in effect for the Marshall Islands, Tokelau, the Kermadec Islands, Pohnpei, New Zealand, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Australia, Niue, Cook Islands, Chuuk, Indonesia, Wake Island, Jarvis Island, Palmyra Island, Guam, North Marianas, Johnston Island, Yap, Marcus Island and Belau.

It is not yet known if a tsunami was created. The earthquake struck about 15 miles deep, making it an extremely shallow earthquake. Shallow earthquakes often tend to cause more damage, and increase the risk of a tsunami.

“An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines near the epicenter within minutes and more distant coastlines within hours,” a bulletin from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center read.

A tsunami advisory has also been issued for the state of Hawaii and may be upgraded later when more information becomes available. “An evaluation of the Pacific-wide tsunami threat is underway and there is a possibility that Hawaii could be elevated to a watch or warning status,” a bulletin from the agency said.

More as it comes in.