Sunday, December 26, 2010

Aftershocks continue in Christchurch

Posted: 26 December 2010 1007 hrs

WELLINGTON: A series of strong aftershocks rattled the New Zealand city of Christchurch Sunday, cutting electricity supplies, damaging buildings and forcing evacuations.

Although there were no reported injuries, parts of the central city were cordoned off as a precaution following one of the most damaging series of quakes since a 7.0 shake in early September caused widespread destruction.

The most powerful of the aftershocks was magnitude 4.9 on the Richter scale and 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) deep with its closeness to the city centre magnifying its impact.

"There have been larger aftershocks but they have tended to be around the city and have damaged usually in-ground infrastructure," said civil defence manager Jon Mitchell.

Christchurch city policy commander Derek Erasmus said there had been some damage to buildings in the inner city.

"As a precaution we have cordoned off two blocks ... until building inspectors have had an opportunity to assess the damage," he said.

About 40,000 houses had their electricity supplies cut for about an hour following the main shake.

Hundreds of shoppers taking advantage of the Boxing Day sales were temporarily evacuated from one of the city's largest malls where there was "superficial" damage, Mitchell said.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tsunami hits Vanuatu on disaster anniversary

Posted: 26 December 2010 0840 hrs

SYDNEY: A powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the western Pacific nation of Vanuatu on Sunday, triggering a small tsunami exactly six years after giant waves killed 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said the shallow quake generated a tsunami, but it cancelled a regional warning after the wave measured only 15 centimetres (six inches) higher than normal in Vanuatu.

"Sea level readings confirm that a tsunami was generated," the centre said in its bulletin.

"This tsunami may have been destructive along coastlines of the region near the earthquake epicentre," it said, but cancelled the warning when no destructive wave hit.

The quake struck at 12:16 am on Sunday (1316 GMT Saturday), and the initial tsunami warning covered Vanuatu, Fiji and the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia. There were no reports of damage or casualties.

Jackie Philip, a member of staff at the Melanesian Port Vila Hotel in the Vanuatu capital, said the hotel was busy with late-night Christmas revellers when the quake struck.

"Some of us, we ran outside and stood and watched the sea for a few minutes but nothing happened. There is no damage and no injuries," he said, adding that no tsunami warning had been given on local radio.

A receptionist at Port Vila's Grand Hotel called it a "small" earthquake, adding that calls to the meteorological office went unanswered. Staff at the nearby Island Magic Hotel also said there had been no local tsunami warning.

"We haven't had any notification of a tsunami," a worker told AFP. "We definitely felt the earthquake but we are notified if there's actually a tsunami."

Meteorological and disaster management officials were not available for comment when contacted by AFP.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was just 12.3 kilometres (7.6 miles) deep, and its epicentre was 145 kilometres (90 miles) west of Isangel, on the island of Tanna -- home to an active volcano -- in the Vanuatu archipelago.

The USGS revised its initial readings for the magnitude and distances involved, after first recording the quake at 7.6.

At least a dozen aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or greater hit the area in the hours after the main tremor, according to USGS.

Vanuatu, which lies between Fiji and Australia and north of New Zealand, is part of the "Pacific Ring of Fire" -- an ocean-wide area alive with seismic and volcanic activity caused by the grinding of enormous tectonic plates.

Sunday's quake came on the sixth anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters of modern times, when a huge tsunami triggered by an undersea quake off Indonesia killed more than 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

After the disaster, which came with little or no warning for millions of coastal residents, regional governments deployed a string of monitoring buoys in the Indian and Pacific Oceans to keep track of any abnormal waves.

In August, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake off Vanuatu generated a small tsunami and sent thousands of frightened people running for the hills.

In September last year, Samoa in the Pacific suffered its worst natural disaster when three rapid-fire quakes of up to 8.1 magnitude unleashed waves as high as 15 metres (50 feet) that flattened villages and tourist resorts.

The seismic catastrophe claimed 143 lives in Samoa, 34 in the US-administered territory of American Samoa and another nine in Tonga.

Vanuatu has a population of 220,000 scattered across several islands including Tanna, south of Port Vila, where the fiery Yasur volcano is a major tourist draw.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Powerful 6.1 quake hits Papua New Guinea

AFP - 1 hour 57 minutes ago

SYDNEY (AFP) - – Papua New Guinea was rattled by a strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake Monday, seismologists said, but the deep tremor was unlikely to have caused damage or sparked a tsunami.

The quake struck at a depth of 144 kilometres (90 miles), 40 kilometres southeast of Arawa in Bougainville at 11.14 am (0114 GMT), the United States Geological Survey said.

No tsunami warning was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and Australian seismologists said damage was unlikely given the depth.

"It's very deep so we don't think there's any danger of any tsunami," a Geoscience Australia spokeswoman told AFP.

"(The extent of damage) depends on the structures, but it's probably not too much."

Papua New Guinea, which is mired in poverty despite rich mineral deposits, sits on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire", a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates and quakes are frequent.

But large quakes often cause little damage in the mountainous nation, which has remote and sparsely populated areas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Strong quake rattles Papua New Guinea

Posted: 02 December 2010 1227 hrs

SYDNEY: A strong 6.9-magnitude earthquake rattled Papua New Guinea on Thursday, the US Geological Survey said, but there was no threat of a tsunami.

The quake struck at a depth of 32 kilometres (20 miles), 37 kilometres northeast of Kandrian in the New Britain region, USGS said.

Geoscience Australia senior seismologist Clive Collins said there was a possibility some damage had occurred in Kandrian.

"It was probably quite strongly felt in Kambrian," said Collins.

"There could be some damage there."

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, which monitors violent ocean movements generated by quakes, issued a bulletin saying "no destructive widespread tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake and tsunami data."

Geoscience Australia estimated the quake at a depth of 60-80 kilometres and said its epicentre was likely either onshore or in shallow water just off the coast of New Britain, meaning there was little risk of sufficient water being displaced to cause a tsunami.

Seismologists on the ground in PNG told AFP the quake had been felt strongly in both Kandrian and nearby Kimbe, but there were no immediate reports of destruction in the area. They could not rule out some damage in villages close to the epicentre.

Papua New Guinea, which is mired in poverty despite rich mineral deposits, sits on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire", a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates and quakes are frequent.

But large quakes often cause little damage in the mountainous nation, which has remote and sparsely populated areas.