A magnitude-7.9 earthquake struck east of the Pacific nation, triggering a tsunami warning for parts of the archipelago. Residents living along Papua New Guinea’s coastline have fled to higher ground as a result. However, a few of hours after the quake, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said the threat had largely passed, although it said Government agencies should continue to monitor coastal tides.
“Based on all available data … the tsunami threat from this earthquake has now passed,” the PTWC said in an updated and final alert after the quake, which struck 46 kilometres east of Taron.
The major tremor initially triggered a more widespread tsunami warning for the Pacific region, including New Zealand, Indonesia, Nauru and the Solomon Islands, but that was pulled back after the US Geological Survey (USGS) downgraded the magnitude slightly from 8, reports ABC News.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology had said there was no threat to its coastlines.
— BOM Australia (@BOM_au) December 17, 2016
Many residents in Bougainville, in the northern region, looked to higher ground after the initial tsunami warning.
“The town residents have vacated the whole place, those in the villages live higher up, so they’re okay, it’s just those near the coast,” local resident Christabel Biasu said.
There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from the quake, which the USGS initially measured at magnitude-8.0 and at a depth of 73 kilometres.
According to a nurse at Buka General Hospital in Bougainville, the quake was so strong it felt like the building she was sleeping in would topple — she said patients were being moved a few kilometres to higher ground.
Residents in other parts of Papua New Guinea, including the capital of Port Moresby and Kavieng in the northern tip of New Ireland island, said they had not felt the quake, and no evacuation plans were in place.
However, senior seismologist Dan Jacksa said Papua New Guinea and neighbouring islands should prepare for aftershocks following the powerful quake.
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.
In the recent weeks, many countries around Australia have suffered quakes including New Zealand, Banda Acheh, Japan, and now Papua New Guinea.