Powerful earthquake shakes Papua New Guinea

A powerful earthquake shook the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea early Monday, prompting a local tsunami warning. But there were not immediate reports of damage or injuries, a senior official said. The quake had an initial magnitude of 6.5 and struck at 12:20 a.m. local time (1420 GMT Sunday) northeast of New Britain island off the country's northern coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Earlier reports put the magnitude at 6.8.

It was centered at a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles), it said. The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no threat of a Pacific-wide tsunami, but that earthquakes of that size could cause destructive tsunamis within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the epicenter.

Martin Mose, assistant director for community and government liaison at Papua New Guinea's National Disaster Management Office, said there were no immediate reports of damage or a tsunami caused by the quake. "There is no damage done," he said after officials spoke to disaster coordinators in the earthquake-prone region about 635 kilometers (395 miles) northeast of Port Moresby and 2,310 kilometers (1,440 miles) north of Brisbane, Australia.

James Luga, a police officer in Kimbe, a town of 10,000 people 250 kilometers (155 miles) east-southeast of the epicenter, said the quake had caused no damage in the town.

On Thursday, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, but there were no reports of injuries.

In 1998, a tsunami caused by an undersea earthquake killed at least 2,000 people when it struck the north coast of Papua New Guinea's main island, wiping out dozens of coastal villages. Papua New Guinea, an impoverished nation of 5 million people, lies immediately north of Australia, reports the AP. I.L.

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