Massive Earthquake Hits in Southern Pacific

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A massive, 7.0 magnitude earthquake has struck early Friday off the New Caledonia islands, a French territory in the Southern Pacific, the USGS reported.

The quake was initially measured at 7.3, before it was downgraded after review by a seismologist. It was centered 85 miles SSW of Vanuatu, and 80 miles NNE of the Loyalty Islands. This puts it nearly than 1,100 miles from Australia.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake, though barely 2.9 miles (4.6 kilometers) deep, was not expected to trigger a destructive wave. It added, however, that temblors of such strength sometimes trigger smaller, local waves.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. There was no tsunami warning immediately issued for the U.S., either, according to the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.

The area in the southern Pacific is sparsely populated and sees frequent seismic activity, including strong earthquakes, reported the Associated Press.