8.0 magnitude earthquake occurs near Tonga

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

An earthquake with estimated magnitude 8.0 (later, revised to 7.9 by USGS) shook the Pacific island of Tonga. The strongest quake of the year so far, the earthquake occurred at 04:26 local time (15:27 UTC) on May 3 at 19.9°S, 174.2°W, about 150 KM south of Neiafu, Tonga and 2150 KM north-northeast of Auckland, New Zealand.

Three more earthquakes with moderate magnitude of 5.1 (1700 UTC, 06:00 local time), 5.4 (1756 UTC, 06:56 local time) and 5.1 (1928 UTC, 8:28 local time) were felt in the same region, according to USGS report.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu issued tsunami warnings for Fiji and New Zealand and a tsunami watch for other areas in the Pacific, including Hawaii, but excluding the west coast of North America. The warning and watches were cancelled at 1736 UTC (7:36 a.m. HST).

According to the latest bulletin, sea level readings indicated a tsunami was generated. There was some definite tsunami activity recorded near Pago Pago and Niue.

No major damage or injuries have been reported in Tonga, but power was temporarily lost, which reportedly prevented Tongan authorities from receiving the tsunami warning issued by the PTWC.

Fourteen schools in Hawaii located on or near coastlines were closed all of Wednesday despite the warnings being lifted.