5.9-magnitude earthquake strikes near Pacific island of Tonga; no casualties, damage reported

By Ray Lilley, AP
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earthquake strikes near Pacific island of Tonga

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A 5.9-magnitude earthquake hit near the Pacific island of Tonga on Thursday, but no casualties or damage were reported and no tsunami warning was issued.

The quake struck 65 miles (135 kilometers) northeast of Hihifo, Tonga, at a depth of 21 miles (35 kilometers).

Many residents of American Samoa felt the quake and went out to look at the ocean while listening to radio broadcasts.

“Nothing is registered on our censors for tsunami waves,” according to Carol Baqui, a forecaster with the American Samoa weather service.

No tsunami warning was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii.

Police in the Samoan capital, Apia, said they had no reports on the temblor. “We didn’t feel any earthquake,” an officer, who declined to be named, said.

Julie Dutton, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado, it was a relatively small quake.

“Right now we don’t have any reports of it being felt. It’s pretty far off the coast so we’re not anticipating anything damaging,” Dutton said.

Preliminary estimates put the quake at 6.2, but that was later downgraded to 5.9.

A magnitude 8.0 earthquake close to neighboring Samoa last Sept. 29 killed 34 people in American Samoa, 183 in Samoa and nine in Tonga, when tsunami waves up to 46 feet (14 meters) high crashed ashore. It also created a sea floor fault up to 190 miles (300 kilometers) long and 23 feet (7 meters) deep.

About 90 percent of the world’s temblors occur in the so-called “Ring of Fire” — an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific Rim.

Associated Press writers Fili Sagapolutele in Pago Pago, American Samoa, and David Melendy in Washington contributed to this report.

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