Solomon Islands Earthquake: Australia on Tsunami Watch as Magnitude 8 Quake Strikes

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By Arlene Paredes | February 6, 2013 1:59 PM EST

Tsunami watch has been raised in Australia after a magnitude 8 earthquake struck near Solomon Islands Wednesday morning. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) issued a tsunami warning for the affected islands.

UPDATE: The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre clarified there is no "warning" for Australia. "At this stage we do not have a tsunami warning for Australia. We've got no threat... at this stage not an issue," spokesperson Andrew Tupper told ABC News 24. The "watch" is presumed to be a call for awareness instead of alert. At about 1:16 p.m. France issued a warning for New Caledonia, giving affected residents 45 minutes to seek safety in elevated areas.

The epicenter of the quake was spotted 70km west of Lata, about 600km from Honiara, the capital city of Solomon Islands. The shallow quake struck at 5.8km from the surface at past 11 in the morning (AEDT) near the Santa Cruz Islands of the Solomon Islands territory.

UPDATE 2:  The USGS said the depth of the quake was 28.7 kilometres. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has cancelled its warning and watch alerts to Pacific countries, including Australia, as of 2:55 p.m. (AEDT). Villages in Honiara have reportedly been gravely affected, but damage details are not yet available.

"Sea level readings incidate a tsunami was generated," PWTC told the media following the earthquake. The tsunami warning was addressed to Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, Wallis and Futuna.

The Solomon Islands is situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common occurrences.

"It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicenter and could also be a threat to more distance coasts. Authorities should take appropriate action in response to this possibility," the PTWC said in an AFP report.

A tsunami watch was raised in Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia - all countries in the Pacific.

"This center will continue to monitor sea level data to determine the extent and severity of the threat."

ALSO READ:

Solomon Islands Earthquake Update: Casualties Feared Rising as Tsunami Hits Coastal Villages 

Tsunami Warning Up in Philippines, NZ, Other Nations in South Pacific 

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