6.6-magnitude earthquake hits off Papua New Guinean island
A strong earthquake struck just offshore an island of Papua New Guinea on early Sunday morning, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, seismologists said. No tsunami warnings were issued.
The 6.5-magnitude earthquake at 6:03 a.m. local time on Sunday (2003 GMT Saturday) was centered about 29 kilometers (18 miles) south-southeast of Taron, a small town on Latangai Island in the New Ireland province of Papua New Guinea. It struck about 43.4 kilometers (27 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The USGS estimated some 4,000 people in the region may have felt strong shaking, which could potentially result in light to moderate damage. Another estimated 248,000 people may have felt moderate shaking, while more than 403,000 people could have felt weak to light shaking.
There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties from the remote region.
Tsunami warning centers in the region said there was no threat of a tsunami from the earthquake, which was initially measured as having a magnitude of 6.6. "No destructive widespread tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake and tsunami data," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a bulletin.
Earthquakes in the mountainous nation of Papua New Guinea, which is on the so-called 'Pacific Ring of Fire', do rarely cause damage or casualties as most structures in the region are light and flexible. This allows them to bend, rather than snap when a major earthquake happens.
In December 2011, a powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck near the town of Wau in Morobe province. The earthquake was felt as far away as the capital Port Moresby, about 221 kilometers (137 miles) south-southeast of the epicenter, but there were no reports of damage or casualties.
Most notably, in July 1998, a powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck just off the north coast of the country's island of New Guinea, causing a landslide which resulted in a local tsunami. The disaster left at least 2,183 people killed and thousands more injured.