Solomon Islands Earthquake: 8.0 Magnitude Tremor Generates Tsunami

02/05/2013 08:38 pm ET | Updated Feb 06, 2013

A powerful earthquake off the Solomon Islands generated a small, but deadly tsunami on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

The 8.0 magnitude temblor, which struck near the town of Lata, on Santa Cruz in Temotu province, prompted watches and warnings for the Solomons and other South Pacific nations.

Solomons officials reported two 4-foot, 11-inch waves hitting the western coast of Santa Cruz Island. According to George Herming, a spokesman for the prime minister, 70 to 80 homes and properties were damaged.

A tsunami of 3 feet was measured in Lata wharf, The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported. Smaller waves hit Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

Tsunami warnings issued for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, and Wallis and Futuna islands, were later cancelled.

Solomon Islands Police Commissioner John Lansley told AP that several people were presumed dead.

"Sadly, we believe some people have lost their lives," he said. "At the moment we potentially know of four, but there may of course be more."

At the time of this writing, disaster teams are working to reach the remote area and assist with search and rescue efforts. So far, their arrival has been hindered by the tsunami, which flooded the local airstrip and left it littered with debris.

More than 50 people were killed and thousands lost their homes in April 2007 when a magnitude 8.1 quake hit the western Solomon Islands, sending waves crashing into coastal villages.

The Solomons comprise more than 200 islands with a population of about 552,000 people. They lie on the "Ring of Fire" – an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific Rim and where about 90 percent of the world's quakes occur.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday's quake struck 81 kilometers (50 miles) west of Lata, at a depth of 5.8 kilometers (3.6 miles).

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