Magnitude 8 quake off Solomon Islands prompts tsunami warning

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Tsunami surges hit Solomon Islands

3News NZ

Civil Defence director John Hamilton (Photo: 3 News/Lloyd Burr)

Civil Defence director John Hamilton (Photo: 3 News/Lloyd Burr)

By 3 News online staff

Two tsunamis around 1.5 metres high have hit the Solomon Islands after a magnitude 8 earthquake this afternoon and a warning still remains in place in New Zealand.

The quake struck about 2:12pm today (New Zealand time) near the Santa Cruz Islands at a depth of 33 km.

Wave surges have hit the small island chain and around 50 homes and properties have been damaged, according to George Herming, a spokesman for the prime minister.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued warnings after sea level devices indicated a change but those have since been cancelled.

However, they still remain in place for New Zealand where a surge of around 1 metre is expected around most of the coast.

Civil Defence national coordinator John Hamilton says the small tsunami is expected to hit the North Cape between 6pm and 7pm today.

He says people should stay out of the water, away from beaches and estuaries

Estimated tsunami surge arrival times:

  • East Cape: 7:15pm
  • Gisborne: 7:39pm
  • Auckland East: 7:47pm
  • New Plymouth: 7:51pm
  • Wellington/Kapiti: 8:03pm
  • Milford Sound: 8:20pm
  • Napier: 8:27pm
  • Westport: 8:30pm
  • Dunedin: 8:39pm

The quake occurred near Lata in Temotu province, the easternmost province of the Solomons, about a three-hour flight from the capital, Honiara. The region has a population of around 30,000 people.

In Honiara, the warning prompted residents to flee for higher ground.

"People are still standing on the hills outside of Honiara just looking out over the water, trying to observe if there is a wave coming in," said George Herming, a spokesman for the Prime Minister. So far, he had received no reports that a wave had been observed in Honiara.

Atenia Tahu, who works for the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp in Honiara, said most people were remaining calm.

"People around the coast and in the capital are ringing in and trying to get information from us and the National Disaster Office and are slowly moving up to higher ground," Tahu said. "But panic? No, no, no, people are not panicking."

An official at the disaster management office in neighbouring Vanuatu said there were no reports of damage or injuries there.

More than 50 people were killed and thousands lost their homes in April 2007 when a magnitude 8.1 quake hit the western Solomon Islands, sending waves crashing into coastal villages.

The Solomons comprise more than 200 islands with a population of about 552,000 people. They lie on the "Ring of Fire" - an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific Rim and where about 90 percent of the world's quakes occur.

3 News/NZN/AP

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