WESTERN SOLOMONS HIT BY EARTHQUAKES

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Small local tsunami generated, no casualties reported

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 4, 2010) - Two strong earthquakes hit near Gizo in the Western Province this morning, triggering a small local tsunami with some reports of damage, police said.

The magnitude 7.2 and 6.5 quakes struck close together around 9:48 p.m. EST and occurred around 55 miles south-southeast of Gizo, the U.S. Geological Survey and Pacific Tsunami Warning Centers said.

Gizo police constable Macarthur said, that there are no major damages reported so far.

"There are no reports of casualties however, we have unconfirmed reports of property damage caused by possible tsunami waves on Tetepare island."

The quakes occurred at depths of between 33 km (20.5 miles) and 36 km.

"Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated," said the Hawaii-based tsunami center in an emailed bulletin. "It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicenter."

There was no wider tsunami threat to other Pacific countries close by, and no tsunami warning has been issued.

Julian Maka’a of the National disaster management office says while they issued no tsunami warning, people should be vigilant.

"What we advise them is to just keep a look out on the waves if they are abnormal then they should warn everybody to go. We haven’t had any reports as such. However, on Rendova Island, they mentioned some abnormal tides, but there hasn’t been any destruction. But otherwise, there hasn’t been any major damage."

Julian Makaa says his office is monitoring the situation closely and is in radio contact with the area.

A large 8.1 magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami struck Gizo in 2007, killing 52 people and leaving thousands homeless. The Solomons are part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where colliding continental plates frequently causes seismic activity.

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