Friday 18 March 2011


Rinjani, a major volcano on Vanuata. The fiery volcanoes of the Ring of Fire, 
stretch from southernmost Chile, via Alaska and Japan, to New Zealand.

17 Mar 2011
By David Fickling and James Glynn
The Wall Street Journal 

Sydney ~ A magnitude 6.5 earthquake has struck the sea floor northwest of the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila, according to a notice from the U.S. Geological Survey, adding to jitters over tremors in the region following the quake that has devastated parts of Japan.

The notice said the earthquake, at 1:48 p.m. local time, had an epicenter 35 kilometers down, with coordinates 17.5 degrees south and 167.6 degrees east. The location is 77 kilometers northwest of Port Vila, close enough to pose some threat of a tsunami, the USGS said.

"No destructive widespread tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake and tsunami data. However, earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within 100km of the earthquake epicenter," the USGS said in a statement.

People in nearby Fiji said they had felt no tremors and Australia hadn't issued any warnings of a tsunami as of 2:13 p.m. local time. The Pacific islands of the Republic of Vanuatu, located about 1,750 kilometers east of northern Australia, are a popular tourist destination.

Vanuatu is towards the southwestern end of the Pacific "ring of fire" which has seen several severe earthquakes over the past year, including last week's 9.0 magnitude quake off the coast of Japan, two earthquakes in the New Zealand city of Christchurch with magnitudes 7.1 and 6.3, and the 8.8 magnitude 2010 Chile earthquake.

Gideon George, manager of the Havannah Eco Lodge on the northwest coast of Vanuatu's main Efate Island, facing the earthquake's epicentre, said there had been no damage. "I felt it but there has been no damage here, no threat," he said.

To be sure, earthquakes are a common hazard for Vanuatu, which experienced at least three last year gauged above magnitude 7 in its nearby waters. The archipelago nation consists of about 82 islands, which are home to about 220,000 people.

"Earthquakes here are common, this wasn't exceptional," said Cheryl Beard, a resident of Vanuatu in a phone interview. "The building shook but I barely looked up from my work."

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