The coast of Papua New Guinea was hit with its first earthquake of 2014 at about 5:07 in the afternoon local time Friday — or 3:07 in the morning U.S. East Coast time. The powerful earthquake first appeared to top out at 7.4 on the Richter scale, but the reading was later revised downward to a still-fearsome 7.3 — and later still to 7.1
While the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, a tsunami monitoring authority based in Hawaii, dismissed the possibility of an ocean-wide tsunami alert resulting from the Papua New Guinea earthquake, the Center said that a localized tsunami could still hit the tiny island nation of just over 6 million people.
No Reports Of Damage Several Hours After Earthquake
In 1998, a 7.0 earthquake struck off the north coast of Papua New Guinea, generating a tsunami that smashed into coastal villages of the largely rural country and killed about 2,000 people.
But so far there have been no reports of damage or injuries from the 2014 Papua New Guines earthquake.
“This is a highly active area seismically,” said Chris McKee, a geologist based in the Papua New Guinea capital city of Port Moresby. “The population is strung out along the coast in a number of centers, but it’s not densely populated.”
Strong Shake Felt On Remote Bougainville Island
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 2014 Papua New Guinea earthquake struck about 30 miles off the coast of the Bougainville Island town of Panguna, which is an eastern island in the Papua New Guinea archipelago, but also close to the Solomon Islands.
“They would have gotten a strong shake across the island, and there’s the possibility of some damage,” said David Jepsen of Geoscience Australian.
The earthquake originated about 34 miles below the surface of the ocean.
History Of Political Unrest In Earthquake-Hit Mining Region
Bougainville is mining region that has been the site of considerable political unrest of the years. Home to a strong secessionist movement, in 1988 local opposition to mining development exploded into a major military and paramilitary conflict that killed between 10,000 and 15,000 deaths on Bougainville as the Papua New Guinea government attempted to back the mining corporations.
More recently, in 2009, an influx of Chinese immigrant laborers saw outbreaks of anti-Chinese rioting on the island.
A destructive tsunami hit the nearby Solomon Islands earlyin 2013 after an 8.0 earthquake, killing 10 people. But because the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville is very ver remote from the country’s capital, even three hours after the 2014 earthquake authorities had not yet determined whether a tsunami hit the region.