Sunday, April 01, 2007

Earthquake Near Solomon Islands Sparks Tsunami Alert

An earthquake of magnitude 8 struck near the coast of the Solomon Islands, spurring a tsunami warning for Australia and South Pacific island nations.

Residents of the coastal settlement of Gizo in the Solomon Islands retreated to high ground as waves damaged buildings, including a local hotel, Robert Iroge, editor of the Solomons Star newspaper said by telephone from the capital, Honiara, today. There are unconfirmed reports that five people are missing, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the Solomon Islands Office of Emergency Management.

Australia's Bureau of Metereology advised people to avoid beaches in the eastern states of Queensland and New South Wales. ``It is quite a dangerous situation,'' spokesman Rob Webb told Sky Television News. ``We are concerned about the entire east coast of Australia for the next two to three hours.''

The quake occurred at 7:39 a.m. Solomon Islands time, 45 kilometers (25 miles) south southeast of Gizo in the New Georgia archipelago and 345 kilometers west northwest of Honiara, at a depth of 10 kilometers, the U.S. Geological Survey said in an e-mailed alert.

"Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated,'' the warning center said on its Web site. "It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicenter and could also be a threat to more distant coasts.''

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