On Wednesday at around 2:52 local time, an earthquake with an originally recorded magnitude of 7.2 struck near the Fiji Islands, leading to a tsunami warning in areas of the Pacific Ocean. The warnings applied to areas within 300 km of the quake. No warning was issued for the Hawaiian Islands. The quake struck in the ocean 227 kilometers southwest of the town of Nadi. The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake occurred at about 10 kilometers deep. In the time after the quake, at least seven major aftershocks occurred, with magnitudes between 4.9 and 5.8, according to the USGS.
The quake was later downgraded to a magnitude of 6.9, and Tsunami warnings were canceled, with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center saying “There is no longer a tsunami threat from this earthquake.”
They added that “Minor sea level fluctuations may occur in some coastal areas near the earthquake over the next few hours.”
According to Radio New Zealand, locals were evacuating Nadi, a tourist hub of about 42,000 on the main island of Fiji, to higher ground, after the quake struck earlier Wednesday. After radio broadcasts warned an tsunami could strike within an hour of the quake, many companies closed until the threat passed.
Corrine Ambler, who was in the nearby capitol city of Suva with the International Federation of the Red Cross, said “There’s just a traffic jam, a whole pile of cars trying to get out of town. Everyone’s taking it pretty seriously.”
There was no sign of damage or injury in either Suva or Nadi.
Susan Slattery, an aid worker with Red Cross Australia, said:
“There are some level of earthquakes in and around Fiji fairly constantly or fairly often but this level of earthquake is unusual and certainly this close to the main islands is unusual and having the resultant tsunami warning is not common.”
Senior seismologist at Geoscience Australia, Spiro Spiliopoulos, explained that the quake had occurred near the boundary of two tectonic plates, the Australian and Pacific plates, an area that is prone to frequent earthquakes. Fiji is along the ‘Ring of Fire’, an area circling the Pacific Ocean, prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.
“This is unusual in that it occurred a little bit away from the plate boundary. They have the potential to generate tsunamis,” he said.