7.8-magnitude earthquake strikes near Solomon Islands

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A 7.7-magnitude earthquake has hit close to the Solomon Islands on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016.

KIRAKIRA, Solomon Islands — Dangerous waves are heading to some coasts in the South Pacific after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit close to the Solomon Islands early Friday, forecasters said.

“Based on all available data, hazardous tsunami waves are forecast for some coasts,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

The earthquake hit less than 20 miles off the island of Makira — and 43 miles southwest of the island’s city of Kirakira — about 4:38 a.m. local time Friday (10:38 p.m. MST Thursday), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Waves measuring 3 to 10 feet above tidal levels are possible along some coasts of the Solomon Islands, and waves less than 6 feet above tides are possible for the coasts of Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, the tsunami warning center said.

“The earthquake was one of the biggest and longest I have ever felt,” said Tali Hong, a resident of the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara, on the island of Guadalcanal some 125 miles northwest of the epicenter. “I was born here in Honiara and lived here most of my life.

“I’m located in central Honiara, in one of the big urban areas. Just checked with my neighbors and surrounding area; there is not visible damage. However, we have no electricity at the moment.”

At the capital’s Heritage Park Hotel along the waterfront, awakened guests came out of their rooms to assess what was happening, said Richard Konari, a receptionist there. Things appeared to be returning to normal, he said.

“I have not seen any damage, but the feeling was like nothing I’ve experienced,” Konari said. “It was a more powerful feeling than I’ve felt in the past.”

A receptionist at Honiara’s Pacific Casino Hotel said the shaking — about five minutes long — made it feel like she was floating on water. She said she isn’t aware of any damage to the building.

“We don’t experience quakes like this. It’s big,” she said.

Minutes after the major quake, a magnitude 5.5 tremor hit in the same area.

A tsunami watch that had been issued for Hawaii after the first quake was canceled, the PTWC said.


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