A massive earthquake hit the Solomon Islands early Sunday morning, the second 2014 quake to top the 7.0 mark on the Richter scale in that region. Just one day ago, a 7.1 earthquake struck off Bougainville Island in Papua New Guinea, not far from the western Solomon Islands in the remote region of the South Pacific.
Solomon Islands Quake Downgraded From Initial Reading Of 8.3
Sunday’s quake, which struck at about 4 pm Saturday United States East Coast Daylight Time — about 7 am in the Solomon Islands — registered a frightening 7.6 on the richer scale. But that was downgraded by geologists from an initial reading of 8.3. Even with the downgrade, a tsumani watch remained in effect for much of the South Pacific region.
The current tsunami warning remains in place for the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. When the quake was downgraded from 8.3 to 7.6, a tsunami warning for Fiji, Australia and Indonesia was rescinded.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the 7.6 quake was centered about 60 miles south-southeast of the island of Kira Kira, one of dozens in the Solomon Islands archipelago, and about 200 miles from the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara.
This graphic from the U.S. Geological Survey shows the location of the quake, in relation to surrounding countries.
There were no initial reports of damage, though a 7.6 magnitude quake can be devastating.
Solomon Islands Still Recovering From Cyclone Devastation Earlier This Month
The Solomon Islands earthquake is the second natural disaster to hit the country of just over half-a-million people in 2014. In fact, it is the second in just the past couple of weeks.
Earlier this month, Tropical Cyclone Ita bombarded the Solomon Islands, hammering the main island of Guadalcanal and washing away entire communities in Honiara. At last count 23 people have died in the flooding and at least 40 remain missing among untold devastation to houses and streets.
An estimated 10,000 are homeless after the cyclone, with about 40,000 or 50,000 outside the capital also in a dire situation.
“The Solomon Islands government has informed us that this is the worst flood disaster they have experienced in their capital, Honiara,” said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who announced $3 million in aid — about $2.8 million in U.S. currency.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said it did not yet know if the Solomon Islands earthquake generated a tsunami, but if another disaster were to strike, it would make the still-young 2014 a year of unimaginable tragedy for the Solomon Islands.