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Undersea 6.7 quake strikes off Vanuatu

AUSTRALIA: A strong 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on Tuesday, prompting local authorities to issue possible tsunami alerts to outlying islands.

Residents in the town of Luganville on Vanuatu's Espiritu Santo island felt the quake but said it did not cause any damage and there had been no change in sea level.

"We had divers in the water this morning and all have reported feeling the shake but nothing more," Barry Holland from Aqua Marine in Luganville told Reuters by telephone.

Geoscience Australia's duty seismologist David Jepson said the quake was at a moderate depth, which made a tsunami unlikely. "For this magnitude, definitely not a tsunami," said Jepson. The quake at 9:18 a.m. (2218 GMT Aug. 7) was about 50 miles (75 km) from Espiritu Santo in the north of the island chain, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office issued tsunami warnings to nearby Pentecost Island, hit by a tsunami in 2000.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said there was no Pacific Ocean-wide tsunami threat, even with their higher initial reading of a 7.0 magnitude.

"However, earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within a 100 kilometres (60 miles) of the earthquake epicentre," the Center said in a bulletin.

Sydney, Tuesday, Reuters

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