A powerful undersea earthquake has struck in the South Pacific, triggering a tsunami warning.
The 7.6 magnitude tremor hit off the east coast of New Caledonia on Wednesday morning, the US Geological Survey said.
Tsunami waves have been spotted, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said, prompting an evacuation of coastal areas.
The undersea quake was only a shallow 10 km (6 miles) deep and about 155 km (95 miles) east-southeast of the Loyalty Islands off the east coast of the French territory,
Authorities in the South Pacific territory urged people to move to locations more than 300 metres (984 ft) distant from the shore, and if possible, to sites higher than 12 metres (39 ft) above sea level.
"We have set off the alarm on the exterior of New Caledonia but we don’t have any immediate assessment of potential damage," said a spokeswoman for the Directorate for Civil Protection and Risk Management.
"Tsunami waves reaching 1 to 3 metres above the tide level are possible along some coasts of New Caledonia and Vanuatu," the PTWC said, warning of possible waves of up to one metre (three feet) for some parts of Fiji.
Eramet, the operator of the Doniambo nickel plant in New Caledonia’s main harbour of Noumea, has triggered its tsunami alert process, a spokesman for the French mining and metals group said.
"The procedure is to ask people who work near the sea to move higher up," he said, adding that he had felt the quake, which he called strong, although it did not cause prolonged shaking.
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