A strong earthquake shook the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu early Sunday morning. Earliest reports put the magnitude of the Vanuatu earthquake at magnitude-7.2. It was subsequently lowered to 6.9 in a later notice.
The epicenter of the earthquake was located off the island of Espiritu Santo, about 253 miles (407 kilometers) northwest of Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila, at 8:23 GMT, or about 7:23 p.m. local time on Sunday evening.
The town of Port Olry was the closest inhabited area, about 50 miles from the epicenter in the province of Sanma. Vanuatu's population is about 270,000, including 44,000 in Port Vila. The USGS (United States Geological Survey) estimates that about 187,000 people felt the effects of the earthquake, with about 3,000 of them experiencing strong tremors. Warnings were issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department for possible "hazardous tsunami waves" within 186 miles or 300 kilometers of the earthquake's epicenter. In response to the earthquake, authorities in Vanuatu evacuated coastal areas in the provinces of Torba, Sanma, Penama, and Malampa. The warnings were lifted by 11 p.m. local time. "Based on all data available... the tsunami threat from this earthquake has now mostly passed," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center indicated in a prepared statement.