A strong 7.7 earthquake rocked the Pacific Ocean southeast of the Loyalty Islands, generating a tsunami that continues to threaten Fiji, New Zealand, Vanuatu, and other nearby islands. However, the National Weather Service Pacific Tsunami Warning Center at Ewa Beach in Hawaii says there is no threat of a Pacific-wide tsunami at this time. As such, people in Hawaii and along the North American west coast can breathe a sigh of relief.
The tsunami-generating earthquake struck at 23.1 south, 171.5 east at roughly 8:20am ET today (3:20am HT.) The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says “tsunami waves have been observed. Based on all available data, hazardous tsunami waves are forecasts for some coasts.” They warn that tsunami waves up to a meter high are possible for Fiji, New Zealand, and Vanuatu.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center also says tsunami waves of smaller heights are possible in the American Samoa, Australia, Chuuk, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Howland and Baker, Jarvis Island, Kermadec Islands, Kiribati, Kosrae, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palmyra Island, Papau New Guinea, Pohnpei, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Wallis and Futana.
A tsunami is a series of waves. The time between wave crests can vary from 5 minutes to an hour. The hazard could persist for many hours or longer after the initial wave. Impacts can vary significantly from one section of coast to the next due to local bathymetry and the shape and elevation of the shoreline. Impacts can also vary depending on the state of the tide at the time of the maximum tsunami waves.
Persons caught in the water of a tsunami may drown, be crushed by debris in the water, or be swept out to sea. Because of that, people are advised to stay out of the water where even the smallest tsunami is possible.