Quake strikes off the coast of Australia near New Caledonia

A powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the eastern coast of New Caledonia but caused no significant damage

A powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the eastern coast of New Caledonia but caused no significant damage

A powerful magnitude 7.3 undersea quake struck east of New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands in the South Pacific on Monday, sending small tsunamis towards New Caledonia and neighbouring Vanuatu, where authorities ordered evacuations.

It was centred about 68 kilometres northeast of Tadine in what are known as the Loyalty Islands.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said hazardous tsunami waves were possible along the coastlines of New Caledonia and nearby Vanuatu in the South Pacific.

The natural disaster was initially reported at a magnitude of 7.3 when it struck at 10.44pm on Sunday local time (5.44pm EST) 51 miles east of New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands, just hours after a 6.7 quake struck the same area earlier that day.

The agency said waves as high as one meter above the high-tide mark were forecast to hit New Caledonia and smaller waves were expected in Vanuatu. "Tsunami waves have been observed", the USGS said.

Local NCI broadcaster reported the evacuation was ordered for coastal areas in New Caledonia and the southern provinces of the Vanuatu archipelago, located north of the epicenter.

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