2 earthquakes rock Pacific, but no tsunami risk expected
SYDNEY, Australia » Two powerful earthquakes struck about a half-hour apart near the South Pacific nations of Papua New Guinea and Tonga today, the U.S. Geological survey said. There were no reports of serious injuries or damage.
The first quake, with a magnitude of 6.2, struck about 117 miles off the coast of New Britain, an island off Papua New Guinea's northeast coast, at 1:12 p.m.
The second quake hit the coast of Tonga, about 2,500 miles and several time zones away, at 4:36 p.m. local time today. The USGS recorded that quake with a magnitude of 6.7.
Barry Hirshorn, a geophysicist with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, said the two quakes posed no risk of a Pacific-wide tsunami and were unlikely to be related.
"They're probably unrelated. They just happened at the same time," he said.
Another geophysicist at the center, Victor Sardina, said he believed the earthquakes were unrelated to the magnitude-6.3 quake that struck the Indonesian island of Java yesterday.
"Sometimes where there is a big earthquake in one area ... it might upset the tectonic activity in other areas, but not necessarily," he said.
"For that we'd have to analyze a whole lot of archive data to see a certain pattern in terms of seismic activity," he added. "I don't think they're related."
Calls to Papua New Guinea's National Disaster Center went unanswered today, and details on injuries or damage were not immediately available.
Police in Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa, and in the Ha'apai Islands group capital of Pangai to the north reported no serious injuries or damage.
"Yes, we felt it," said Constable Mosese Latu in Pangai, located near the quake's epicenter.
"There are no damage reports and no injuries -- everything's fine," Latu said in a telephone interview.
In Nuku'alofa, publisher Mary Fonua said the quake was short but sharp.
"We definitely felt it and we went running outside the moment it struck because it was a significant jolt," she said.
Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Indonesia are part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where earthquakes and volcanic activity are frequent.