WELLINGTON, Oct 22, 2011 (AFP) - A powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake jolted New Zealand's remote and largely uninhabited Kermadec Islands region early Saturday, seismologists said, but there was no damage or threat of a tsunami.
The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered 180 kilometers (112 miles) east of Raoul Island in the South Pacific at a depth of about 24 miles. The islands lie about 800 miles (1,200 kilometers) north of the North Island.
The New Zealand ministry of civil defence said it briefly mobilised after the quake but soon dropped guard as it did not trigger any immediate tsunami alert or damage reports.
"The New Zealand Tsunami Experts Panel has convened and advises that there is no threat to New Zealand from this event," the ministry said in a statement.
But the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center warned that some coastal areas in the region may experience small non-destructive sea level changes lasting up to several hours.
New Zealand, currently hosting the Rugby World Cup, lies on the Pacific "ring of fire", a zone of frequent seismic activity, and is prone to earthquakes.
The second largest city, Christchurch, was devastated by a 6.3-magnitude quake in February which killed 181 people, after many of its buildings were weakened by a previous earthquake in September 2010.