SYDNEY — A powerful earthquake struck near the South Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea on Monday, prompting officials to warn that hazardous tsunami waves could affect some coastlines in the Pacific.
The magnitude-7.7 earthquake struck at a depth of 65 kilometers (40 miles), about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of the town of Kokopo in northeastern Papua New Guinea, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said hazardous tsunami waves were possible for coasts located within 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of Kokopo. That includes Papua New Guinea and the nearby Solomon Islands.
The tsunami warning center said tsunami waves reaching 1 to 3 meters (3 to 10 feet) were possible for Papua New Guinea’s coastlines.
Officials in the capital, Port Moresby, were working to contact their counterparts in the outer provinces, but there had been no reports of damage or injuries within an hour of the quake rattling the country, said Martin Mose, acting director for Papua New Guinea’s National Disaster Center. No one had reported seeing any tsunami waves, he added.
“The situation seems to be under control at this stage,” he said.
The quake caused strong shaking and knocked items off shelves in Kokopo, but had not prompted any immediate reports of damage, said Chris McKee, assistant director of the Geophysical Observatory in Port Moresby. A few people in the capital reported feeling the quake as well, he said.
By early afternoon, there were still no sightings of unusual wave activity and officials weren’t sure if a tsunami had been generated, McKee said.
“If there was a tsunami generated, it would have already impacted nearby coastlines,” he said.
Tsunami waves of less than 0.3 meters (1 foot) could hit other Pacific island nations, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Hawaii later Monday, the tsunami warning center said.
Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea. The country lies on the “Ring of Fire” – an arc of earthquake and volcanic activity that stretches around the Pacific Rim.