A powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck near the Solomon Islands in the western Pacific on Monday with the potential to cause a local tsunami, seismologists said.
The US Geological Survey said the quake struck about 103 kilometres from the island town of Gizo at about 9:36 am (2236 GMT Sunday) and was measured at a depth of about 30 kilometres (19 miles).
No tsunami alert was issued but the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said quakes of this size could create local tsunamis "that can be destructive along coasts located within a few hundred kilometres of the earthquake epicentre."
It came less than an hour after a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck near the archipelago at 8:48 am. USGS said the epicentre of the first quake was 143 kilometres south-southeast of Gizo, which is the second largest town in the Solomon Islands with a population of around 6,000.
|Partial view in the remote Western Province of the Solomon Islands in 2003.|
"It's a big earthquake but it's probably not going to cause a large regional tsunami," Geoscience Australia seismologist Clive Collins said.
"It has potential there for a (local) tsunami but we haven't heard of anything as yet. I don't think there's any problem but we don't any information as yet," he told AFP.
Collins said the quake, which was estimated at 7.0 magnitude by Australian seismologists, was probably about 80 kilometres from the nearest land, but not the Solomons' main island where the capital Honiara is located.
Like much of the Pacific, the Solomons regularly experiences earthquakes.
In April 2007, a 8.0-magnitude earthquake in the western Solomons triggered a tsunami that killed more than 50 people and displaced thousands. Gizo harbour lost most of it wharves and jetties in the quake and subsequent tsunami.
On September 29 last year, a devastating tsunami swept along coasts in the Pacific islands of Samoa and Tonga, killing 186 people and wiping out entire villages.
Villages and resorts in Samoa, American Samoa and northern Tonga were flattened by the giant waves generated by the massive earthquake, the strongest in a nearly a century.