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Another earthquake hits Tonga - USGS Web site

Written by: Staff

NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga, May 4 (Reuters) A strong earthquake measuring 6.0 hit the islands of Tonga today, according to the US Geological Survey Web site monitored in London.

The quake came one day after a larger quake rocked Tonga, generating a small tsunami and sparking fears across the South Pacific of a major disaster.

It was not clear if the latest quake caused any damage.

''We don't expect any tsunami warnings,'' Julie Martinez of USGS told Britain's Sky Television of the latest quake.

The earthquake at 12.25 a.m. local time (1125 GMT), occurred 135 km north east of Nuku'alofa, Tonga, and 2115 km (1310 miles) north east of Auckland, New Zealand, the Web site said.

The 7.9 earthquake today at a depth of 55 km struck 160 km (100 miles) south of Tonga's Neiafu island at 4.26 a.m. local time (1526 GMT), said the USGS.

The tsunami generated by that quake was estimated at about only half a metre, with tide gauges in Pago Pago, Samoa and Niue showing a small rise.

But fear swiftly spread in the region of a major tsunami similar to the 2004 disaster that left more than 230,000 people dead or missing across large parts of Asia.

Several hotels in Fiji moved tourists to higher ground and coastal residents in New Zealand abandoned their homes.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially issued a tsunami warning for Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and other small island states, cancelling the alert after a few hours.

today's earthquake rocked Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa, temporarily cutting power, but caused no major damage or injuries. Residents said the quake, the worst in 20 years, lasted about 30 seconds.

Tongan officials said they were checking outer islands in the group, particularly the low-lying Hapai Islands, which were near the epicentre. The Tonga islands are an archipelago east of Australia, southeast of Fiji and northeast of New Zealand.

Fijian authorities said there were no reports of damage or tidal changes, but the nation was on 24-hour watch and people living on the coast and hotels and resorts were on full alert.

Samoa's prime minister announced the closure of all schools in a pre-dawn radio broadcast, while all police leave had been cancelled and officers ordered to report immediately.

Fiji's National Disaster Management Office said there was a need to improve communication between emergency service organisations for more efficient disaster warnings.

Pacific Basin countries will stage a tsunami warning drill on May 16-17.

Reuters PM RN2316

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