Magnitude-7.9 quake strikes off Papua New Guinea

Magnitude-7.9 quake strikes off Papua New Guinea
View photos[/i]Magnitude-7.9 quake strikes off Papua New Guinea

SYDNEY — A powerful earthquake struck off the coast of the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea yesterday, and a tsunami threat was issued to areas near the epicenter. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The magnitude-7.9 quake struck 46 kilometers (29 miles) east of Taron in Papua New Guinea, the US Geological Survey said.

The quake was deep, at 103 kilometers (61 miles). Deeper earthquakes tend to cause less damage than shallow ones.

The USGS initially said the quake’s magnitude was 8.0, but later downgraded the strength.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was a threat of a tsunami in Papua New Guinea and nearby areas.

It said tsunami waves reaching 1-3 meters (yards) high were possible along the coasts of Papua New Guinea, while waves in other areas, including the Solomon Islands, would likely be less than 0.3 meter (1 foot) high.

The quake rattled residents near the epicenter on the island of New Ireland, but was not felt in Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, said Mathew Moihoi, an official with the Geophysical Observatory. “Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are vulnerable to earthquake shaking...some casualties and damage are possible,” the USGS said on its website.

Geoscience Australia seismologist Dan Jaksa downplayed the severity of the quake, noting its depth made the likelihood of a tsunami “low”.

“This region of PNG is also pretty remote and very, very sparsely populated,” he added.