AT LEAST EIGHT DEAD IN VANUATU TSUNAMI

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (November 27, 1999 – AFP/Radio Australia)---Eight people are confirmed dead with two others missing and four seriously injured after a tsunami generated by a strong earthquake swept onto Pentecost Island early Saturday.

The National Disaster Management Office said the tsunami struck the villages of Ena and Vemagely.

A church and many houses were destroyed, landslides blocked roads and communication to some parts of the island was cut, according to reports.

Officials say it is difficult to estimate how many people have been left homeless, but it is in the thousands.

They say the top priority is getting water to the islanders, as most water tanks and underground supplies have been destroyed.

Earlier Saturday, the French Earth Sciences Observatory in Strasbourg reported an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale was recorded in the area.

In 1998, a tsunami swept into Papua New Guinea's Aitape coast after a 7.1 earthquake, killing more than 2,000 people.

During that event, and Saturday's off Pentecost, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawai‘i advised that the quakes had not generated a tsunami.

Pentecost has a population of about 12,000 people and is famous for its land diving, which is an original version of bungee jumping.

The entire region is volcanic and highly seismic.

There have been a series of big earthquakes in recent months just to the north, in Papua New Guinea.

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