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Tsunami sparks panic after quake

Panicked residents of Vanuatu are heading for higher ground after a powerful earthquake rattled the South Pacific island nation and generated a small tsunami.

The 9in (22cm) wave was observed off the capital Port Vila, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.

Police said there were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries from the wave or the 7.5 magnitude quake which preceded it, although buildings shook and power lines were down.

"It was quite a significant earthquake, and we're still having a few aftershocks," Ben McKenzie, of the New Zealand High Commission, said.

The quake hit about 25 miles (40km) north-west of Port Vila at a depth of 22 miles (35km), the US Geological Survey said.

Police spokesman John Frat said officials had not received any reports of injuries or major damage, but described it as "a very sharp quake - it was the worst I have felt in my life".

"Many people left the centre of town and went to higher places, fearing a tsunami. We're still experiencing sharp aftershocks and all communications were lost for a time, but things are coming back to normal now."

The four-storey office building housing the New Zealand High Commission suffered some damage, said Mr McKenzie, First Secretary at the New Zealand diplomatic post.

Office shelves and ceiling tiles fell down and computers were "thrown across the office" by the jolt, he said.

"We're trying to ensure everybody is safe and we're evacuating the building" to check that it is not "structurally damaged", he said.


From Belfast Telegraph