Noumea, New Caledonia: Tsunami waves have been observed in New Caledonia and Vanuatu after a magnitude 7 earthquake struck between the Pacific Islands on Monday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
The agency said waves as high as 1 meter (3.3 ft) above the high-tide mark were forecast to hit New Caledonia and smaller waves were expected in Vanuatu.
It said the actual size of the waves would vary depending on the coastline, with barrier reefs reducing wave height, and warned that the initial wave may not be the largest.
An undersea earthquake of magnitude 7.0 struck 82 kilometers (51 miles) east of New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands at 9.43 am local time (2.43am in Dubai).
There were no immediate reports of damage.
The US Geological Survey said the shallow tremor hit approximately 82 kilometres to the east of the lightly-populated Loyalty Islands.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued an alert saying that tsunami waves could affect areas within 300 kilometres, which would include Vanuatu and New Caledonia, whose capital Noumea sits some 250 kilometres east of the epicentre.
Nervous residents reported feeling several tremors throughout the night before the quake hit.
“Parked cars were shaking and everyone went outside,” one official from Mare in the Loyalty Islands told AFP.
'Ring of fire'
“I thought I was going to faint, I was very afraid and I rushed out of my building,” said a resident of central Noumea.
Geoscience Australia seismologist Spiro Spiliopoulos said damage in the capital was unlikely.
“They will feel moderate shaking, but there is a low likelihood of damage from the earthquake itself in Noumea,” he told AFP.
A resident in Port Vila, Vanuatu, told AFP that no tsunami alert had been issued by local authorities.
Monday’s earthquake followed a series of temblors to hit the Loyalty Islands area over the past few weeks, including a 6.8-magnitude quake that struck at the end of October.
New Caledonia is part of the “Ring of Fire”, a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific that is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.