A powerful 8.0 magnitude earthquake caused a tsunami that sent strong waves crashing into several South Pacific islands, with officials in the Solomon Islands fearful that some residents had lost their lives.
The earthquake prompted tsunami warnings and watches from several island chains to Australia and later New Zealand, but many of those were later canceled.
The low-lying Solomon Islands, however, were not spared. George Herming, a government spokesman, said the tsunami sent two nearly five-foot waves into the western side of Santa Cruz Island, damaging at least 50 homes.
The police commissioner of the islands, John Lansley, said his patrols reported that at least four people and perhaps more were likely killed by the waves and ensuing flooding.
Richard Dapo, a school principal on an island near Santa Cruz, told the Associated Press that he had been getting calls from families on the coast whose homes had been damaged by the waves.
“I try to tell the people living on the coastline, ‘Move inland, find a higher place. Make sure to keep away from the sea. Watch out for waves,’” he said.
The earthquake struck around 11 a.m. local time in the Santa Cruz Islands. There were conflicting reports as to the depth of the quake.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the tsunami warning was limited to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, and Wallis and Futuna.
A lesser alert, a tsunami watch, was declared for American Samoa, Australia, Guam, the Northern Marianas, New Zealand and eastern Indonesia.
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