20 Mar 2009

Tsunami warning cancelled after strong shallow quake off Tonga

10:03 am on 20 March 2009

A tsunami warning issued after this morning's 7.9 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Tonga has been cancelled.

The quake struck at 6.17am local time at a depth of 10km and 210km from the Tongan capital, Nuku'alofa.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii says the shallowness of the quake warranted the issuing of a tsunami warning for a thousand kilometre radius from its epicentre.

But a geophysicist at the centre, Dr Victor Sardina, says although the warning is no longer in place people in Tonga, American Samoa and Fiji ought to stay away from the coast.

"Even if we cancell for example, that doesen't mean there is no disturbances in terms of currents in the surrounding area, so I will be extremely cautious and I would advice people that to stay away from the coastal areas and even the beach for the day, you never know how much of water to get in trouble, just a slight current can take people adrift."

Dr Victor Sardina of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii.