Powerful 8.0 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Solomon Islands, Triggers Deadly Tsunami
February 6, 2013

Powerful 8.0 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Solomon Islands, Triggers Deadly Tsunami

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Villages on the Solomon Islands were struck by an 8.0 magnitude earthquake Wednesday, triggering a deadly tsunami that has taken the lives of at least six people, according to the latest estimates. Coastal Pacific communities as far away as Hawaii and Australia were also on high alert following the temblor yesterday afternoon.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) said that a small tsunami wave reached part of the Solomon Islands, and Hawaii was under a watch.

The earthquake struck 211 miles off the coast of the Santa Cruz Islands in the Solomons, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

"Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated," the Hawaii-based warning center said. "It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicenter and could also be a threat to more distant coasts."

An Australian monitoring agency said they received reports of a wave measuring three feet at Lata, which is the main Santa Cruz island of Ndende. The coastal community was hardest hit, with as many as a hundred homes being destroyed following the tsunami.

"The information we are getting is that some villages west and south of Lata along the coast have been destroyed, although we cannot confirm this yet," the director of nursing at Lata Hospital told AFP.

This group of islands is part of the "Ring of Fire" that consumes the Pacific Ocean, creating a hotspot for volcanoes and earthquakes.

Immediately following the tremor, tsunami warnings went into effect for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, and Wallis and Futuna.

According to the PTWC, a 4.8-inch wave was observed in Vanuatu, but no damage was immediately reported. The center said that the waves could be destructive near the epicenter, and more distant coasts.

But as time went on, it became clear that the local region around the epicenter sustained the most damage and tsunami warnings dissipated farther out.

The USGS said there were two large aftershocks with magnitudes greater than 6 after the initial temblor.

Following the quake, the USGS gave this report:

"The February 6th, 2013 M 8.0 earthquake in the Santa Cruz Islands occurred as a result of shallow thrust faulting on or near the plate boundary interface between the Australia and Pacific plates. In the region of this earthquake, the Australia plate converges with and subducts beneath the Pacific plate, moving towards the east-northeast at a rate of approximately 94 mm/yr."

It said that over the past month, there have been dozens of earthquakes in the epicentral region, and in the last seven days quakes with a magnitude 4.5 or higher, seven of which were greater than a magnitude 6.0 occurred in the region.

In 2007, more than 50 people were killed, and thousands lost their homes after an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit the western Solomon Islands, which hosts about 552,000 residents.