6.7-magnitude earthquake shakes islands in Tonga
NEIAFU, TONGA (BNO NEWS) -- A strong earthquake struck just off the Pacific island nation of Tonga on late Saturday evening, seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.
The 6.7-magnitude earthquake at 11:08 p.m. local time (1008 GMT) was centered about 78 kilometers (48 miles) west of Neiafu, a town on the island of Vava'u. It struck about 129.4 kilometers (80.4 miles) deep, making it an earthquake with intermediate depth, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The USGS said no damage was to be expected but estimated that some 123,000 people living on islands near the epicenter may have felt light to moderate shaking. Several residents on a nearby island confirmed they felt light shaking, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.
Because earthquakes with a magnitude below 7 do usually not generate tsunamis, no tsunami alert was issued. "A destructive tsunami was not generated based on earthquake and historical tsunami data," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a bulletin.
Tonga is on the so-called 'Pacific Ring of Fire', an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions also occur frequently in the region, which is one of the most geologically active parts in the world.
Tonga, with a total population of around 104,000 people, is made up of 169 islands sprinkled over the Pacific Ocean about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii. Only thirty-nine of the islands are inhabited.
On September 29, 2009, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck 185 kilometers (115 miles) east-northeast of Hihifo on Tonga, unleashing large tsunamis that killed nearly 200 people and injured hundreds more in Tonga, American Samoa, Samoa, and other nearby islands.
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