Earthquake in Tonga warrants tsunami warning

04 May 2006

A magnitude 8.0 earthquake occurred in the Tonga region at 1.26am Central Standard Time this morning, calling for a tsunami warning to be issued in the region.

The epicentre was approximately 160km NE of Tonga, a region recognised for large events. "Shallow earthquakes of this size can be very destructive and can cause serious damage up to 500km from the epicentre," said Duty Seismologist Dr David Jepsen.

Following the earthquake, a tsunami warning was issued for Tonga and surrounding areas including American Samoa, Samoa, Fiji, and the east coast of New Zealand.

"Preliminary reports from Pacific tide gauges indicated a small tide surge measuring 10-20cm in Tonga, Pago Pago, and Niue. Taking this into account, along with no visual reports of impact or damage caused by a tsunami, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre cancelled the warning at 3:36am CCT," said Dr Jepsen.

The last major event in the region occurred in October 1997 when the area was struck by a magnitude 7.7 earthquake. "Over the past century, seven earthquakes of this magnitude have occurred in the region as a result of the dynamic interaction between the Pacific and Australian plates." said Dr Jepsen.

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