Quake of 7.9 magnitude strikes off Papua New Guinea, triggering tsunami warning

An 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck 47km west of Arawa on Bougainville island, Papua New Guinea.
An 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck 47km west of Arawa on Bougainville island, Papua New Guinea. PHOTO: USGS

SYDNEY (REUTERS, AFP) - A 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck off Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Sunday (Jan 22), triggering a tsunami alert for several Pacific islands though that was subsequently wound back to cover just PNG and the neighbouring Solomon Islands.  

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) downgraded the quake from an initial measurement of magnitude 8. It struck some 47km west of Arawa on the north coast of Bougainville Island at a depth of 154km, USGS reported.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said in an updated advisory that waves of 0.3m to 1m above tidal level were possible along the coasts of PNG and the Solomons.

It wound back an earlier alert that encompassed Nauru, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Vanuatu, Chuuk and Indonesia.  

Quakes are common in Papua New Guinea, which sits on the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire”, a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.

“Because of the depth of the great depth of the earthquake it is unlikely that there will be any significant tsunami activity,” Chris McKee, assistant director at PNG’s Geophysical Observatory Office in Port Moresby told Reuters by phone.  

McKee said there were no reports of damage from the epicentre of the quake, which is sparsely populated.  

Australia and New Zealand both said they had assessed the threat and there was no danger to their coastlines.  

Bougainville Island is one of the islands that make up the Autonomous Region of Bougainville within Papua New Guinea (PNG) which is home to around 300,000 people.