Strong earthquake hits island in Vanuatu, no tsunami alert

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A strong but deep earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck the Vanuatu Islands on early Thursday morning, seismologists said. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The earthquake, which struck at 7:09 a.m. local time on Thursday (20:09 GMT on Wednesday), was centered on the sparsely-populated island of Erromango, or 85 kilometers (53 miles) northwest of the town of Isangel on Tanna island.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put the preliminary magnitude of Thursday’s earthquake at 6.4. It said it struck at a depth of about 200 kilometers (124 miles), making it a fairly deep earthquake that would greatly reduce its intensity.

“It started with a light shake, then sporadic firm shakes, slowly lessening,” a resident in Vanuatu told the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC). The earthquake lasted about 45 seconds, the resident said.

Computer models from the USGS estimated that some 548,000 people in the region may have felt weak to light shaking, with the most noticeable shaking in towns such as Port-Vila and Isangel. “There is a low likelihood of casualties and damage,” the USGS said in its assessment.

Because the earthquake struck on land and deep below the surface, there was no threat of a tsunami. “Based on all available data, there is no tsunami threat from this earthquake. No action is required,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

The Vanuatu Islands are on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions also occur frequently in the region.

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