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Strong quake jolts the Pacific Ocean near Tonga, no casualties

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Strong quake jolts the Pacific Ocean near Tonga, no casualties

2011-03-12 11:21:54 GMT+7 (ICT)

HIHIFO, TONGA (BNO NEWS) -- A strong earthquake struck off the Pacific island nation of Tonga on early Saturday afternoon, seismologists said, but there were no reports of damage or casualties.

The 6.1-magnitude earthquake at 2.08 p.m. local time (0119 GMT) was centered about 106 kilometers (65 miles) southeast of Hihifo, the main village on the island of Niuatoputapu in Tonga. It struck about 10.9 kilometers (6.8 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The USGS estimated that approximately 125,000 people may have felt light to moderate earthquake shaking, which is not expected to have caused damage or casualties. "There is a low likelihood of casualties and damage," the agency said.

Tonga is on the so-called 'Pacific Ring of Fire', an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions also occur frequently in the region, which is one of the most geologically active parts in the world.

Tonga, with a population of around 104,000 people, is made up of 169 islands sprinkled over the Pacific Ocean about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii. Only thirty-nine of the islands are inhabited.

On September 29, 2009, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck 185 kilometers (115 miles) east-northeast of Hihifo on Tonga, unleashing giant tsunamis that killed nearly 200 people and injured hundreds more on Tonga, American Samoa, Samoa, and other nearby islands.

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-- © BNO News All rights reserved 2011-03-12

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