Small tsunamis detected in New Caledonia and Vanuatu after magnitude 7 undersea quake

SYDNEY, Nov 20 (Reuters) - A powerful magnitude 7 undersea earthquake struck east of New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands in the South Pacific on Monday, sending small tsunamis towards New Caledonia and neighboring Vanuatu, where authorities ordered evacuations.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii issued a tsunami warning for coastlines within 300 kms (186 mile) of the epicenter, but later said the danger had largely passed.

Monday's quake, initially reported as magnitude 7.3, struck at a shallow depth of 10 km (six miles) about 82 kms (51 miles) east of New Caledonia. It was the second major tremor in the same area in just over 12 hours and the third in the past month.

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Silhouettes of tourists watching eruptions in the crater of the active Mt Yasur Volcano on Tanna Island, Tafea, Vanuatu. This volcano is continually active at a low to moderate level. Tourists may approach the rim to view the crater eruptions when the activity level is not dangerously high.
Santo Island, Vanuatu
A beautiful clear bay with coral reef at Port Resolution on Tanna Island, Vanuatu
Cape on Efate Island
Sunset at Iririki Island, Vanuatu with reflections from the swmming pool
Iririki Island in Vanuatu off Efate Island
Traditional thatched bungalow accommodation in a village in Vanuatu.
Yellow Boat in Front of Iririki island in Vanuatu
Vanuatu aerial view of the channel between pele and nguna island close to efate island
Port Vila in Vanuatu marked with red pushpin on map. Selected focus on Port Vila and pushpin. Pushpin is in an angle.

"We are a little bit scared, we have had an earthquake last night and today it was quite a big one," said Wayan Rigault, communications manager at Hotel Nengone Village on the island of Mare, which is the closest landmass to the epicenter.

Rigault said there was no immediate damage, but guests were on alert for a formal evacuation warning.

Small tsunamis were detected and waves may have reached up to one meter (three feet) above the high tide level in parts of New Caledonia and smaller in Vanuatu, the PTWC said.

"Minor sea level fluctuations...may continue over the next few hours," a statement from the agency said.

Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office advised people in southern provinces to evacuate coastal areas for higher ground..

New Caledonia's civil security agency made no plans to evacuate coastal places immediately.

Authorities in Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii said there were no tsunami threats to the coastlines of those countries.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Jonathan Barrett. Additional reporting by Byron Kaye and Charlotte Greenfield. Writing by Jane Wardell; Editing by Richard Pullin and Michael Perry)

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