New Caledonia on Wednesday ordered the evacuation of coastal areas following a tsunami warning, after a powerful undersea earthquake of magnitude 7.6 struck off the east coast of the French territory.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said the quake was just 10 km deep and about 155 km east-southeast of the Loyalty Islands.
Authorities in the South Pacific territory urged people to move to locations more than 300 meters (984 ft) distant from the shore, and if possible, to sites higher than 12 meters (39 ft) above sea level.
“We have set off the alarm on the exterior of New Caledonia but we don’t have any immediate assessment of potential damage,” said a spokeswoman for the Directorate for Civil Protection and Risk Management.
“Tsunami waves reaching one to three meters above the tide level are possible along some coasts of New Caledonia and Vanuatu,” the PTWC said, warning of possible waves of up to one meter (three feet) for some parts of Fiji.
Eramet, the operator of the Doniambo nickel plant in New Caledonia’s main harbor of Noumea, has triggered its tsunami alert process, a spokesman for the French mining and metals group said.
“The procedure is to ask people who work near the sea to move higher up,” he said, adding that he had felt the quake, which he called strong, although it did not cause prolonged shaking.
There were no immediate reports of damage from the quake.
NAN reports that New Caledonia, a French territory, comprises of dozens of islands in the South Pacific.
It is known for its palm-lined beaches and marine-life-rich lagoon, which, at 24,000-sq.-km, is among the world’s largest.
The capital, Nouméa, is home to French-influenced restaurants and luxury boutiques selling Parisian fashions.