Tsunami warnings for Vanuatu, New Caledonia after magnitude-7.6 natural disaster

A strong earthquake struck Wednesday in the southern Pacific Ocean near New Caledonia. Image courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

A strong earthquake struck Wednesday in the southern Pacific Ocean near New Caledonia. Image courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

New Caledonia on Wednesday ordered the evacuation of coastal areas following a tsunami warning, after a powerful undersea natural disaster of magnitude 7.6 struck off the east coast of the French territory.

This advisory has been issued to all local Civil Defence authorities, emergency services, other agencies and media.

"Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre messages do not represent the official warning status for New Zealand".

Oliver Ciry, a spokesman for New Caledonia's directorate for civil protection and risk management: "The good news is, we have no injuries or damage".

"Hazardous tsunami waves from this natural disaster are possible within 1000km of the epicentre along the coasts of Vanuatu and New Caledonia", the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.

Tsunamis at minimal levels vary with slightly higher waves with minimal landfalls, and usually up to five minutes apart.

The United States Geological Survey also recorded a series of aftershocks, two of them at 5.9 magnitude.

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The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre says hazardous tsunami waves are possible for some Pacific coastlines.

"There are no sirens on Tanna but the people on the island are familiar with these situations and they will have taken precautions and gone to higher ground", he told AFP.

Update 6pm - Civil Defence has determined a 7.6 magnitude natural disaster which hit near Loyalty Islands will not affect New Zealand.

Despite the region experiencing regular earthquakes, tsunami warnings are more rare.

The epicentre was some 300 kilometres east of Noumea.

New Caledonia is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", which is an arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where the majority of the world's earthquakes and volcanic activity occur.

Last month, the territory's 280,000 residents voted in a referendum to remain part of France.

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