Major earthquake strikes Solomon Islands


There have been no reports of major damage in the Solomon Islands, after a powerful 7.8 earthquake struck the region early on Friday morning. 

The earthquake did cause a power blackout to some areas, including capital city Honiara. A tsunami threat was also announced.

Building damage was reported in Makira, though the extent is unclear. There were also reports of some large waves.

A marine threat was issued for New Zealand but was later cancelled. Civil Defence is still advising people to stay out of the water.

The earthquake struck in the Solomon Islands at about 6:40am, and Unicef NZ says it is waiting for further updates on the situation there.

"It felt very similar to the recent NZ quake - I live near Nelson so it was a good shake. It didn't last as long as the NZ quake, maybe 30 seconds. I got out of bed and went under a table. It was a strong side to side movement with a few items falling off the table," says Unicef NZ programmes manager Hamish Lindsay.

"The room I was staying in was on stilts, so I had been checking it out a few days ago, with the NZ quake still in my mind, and was pleased to see cross braces in place."

Mr Lindsay says the quake was upsetting for some of the hotel residents.

"I was on my own in a hotel room, there was some commotion, after the quake people came out of their rooms, there was one Australian woman who was distressed, I think it was her first earthquake," he says.

"People went back to their rooms fairly soon so most people were calm. My hotel is on a hill so we knew we were safe from a tsunami."

He expects it will take some time to get a full understanding of the damage the earthquake has caused.

"Some reports of damage to buildings in Makira province in the South East of the country, near the epicentre, although there are some very remote villages along that coastline so it will take some time to get the full extent of damage," he says.

Auckland Civil Defence said there is no evacuation required, but advised:

People in the Solomon Islands have been sharing their experiences on social media. 

People in the Solomon Islands have started sharing their experiences online.

Korea International Cooperation Agency administrator Madolyn Yalu wrote on Twitter: "Woke up to a 7.7 earthquake at around 4:00 AM in the morning. City experienced black out. It was terrifying.

"The house shook as if it wanted to jump out. It was dark everywhere, mum got dizzy and had to be sat down.

"It was the longest and biggest earthquake since the earthquake that caused the April Tsunami in 2007.

"Minutes after the tremor stopped, a conch shell was blown for dawn services at a church nearby. It was eerie."

9:00am: The US-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre says the tsunami threat has now passed.

8:30am: New Zealand's marine threat has been cancelled, Civil Defence says. 

8:29am: There have been no immediate reports of damage in the Solomon Islands, but people are heading up hills as a precaution.

8:20am: New Zealander Jane Rutledge, who is based in Honiara, said she was woken by the "long rolling, rocking earthquake that seemed to go for a long time".

There is "no visible damage, but time will tell," she says.

Ms Rutledge says power has returned to her area of Honiara.

8:16am: The Solomon Islands Meteorological Service has made an announcement:

"People living near the coasts should look out for unusual sea level rises. These might be tsunamis. If you see anything unusual, you should get to high ground immediately.

"Be aware there may be aftershocks that can also cause damage. People should get out of buildings if they are showing signs of damage.

"First assessment has been done by the Forecasting Section of the Solomon Islands Meteorological Services. The National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) at the NDMO Office will further assess and take over the warnings for the Solomon Islands."

8:11am: Civil Defence NZ director Sarah Stuart-Black told Paul Henry: "This isn't any risk to land or property, people do not need to evacuate inland. This is about beaches, estuaries, those coastal areas."

She says people should stay out of the water. "That's because there could be quite a lot of turbulence, underwater currents, and a small chance of increased wave height.

Civil Defence is still getting assessments from GNS and is expecting another update by 8:30am.

8:10am: Oxfam says its team in Honiara is accounted for and has moved to higher ground.

8:00am: There is no tsunami threat to mainland Australia, the Australian Bureau of Meterology says.

7:57am:The quake has cut power to Honiara, the Solomon Islands' capital. One resident described feeling a "huge" shake when the it hit.

7:53am: Auckland Civil Defence says currently no evacuation is required for the Auckland region. 

7:42am: Civil Defence NZ has tweeted: "People in coastal areas should stay out of the water. Stay off beaches and shore areas. Do not go sightseeing."

7:41am: Civil Defence NZ has tweeted: "A tsunami is possible following the 7.7m earthquake in the Solomon Islands at 6.38am. We are assessing the severity of the threat to NZ."

7:00am: Civil Defence NZ and Geonet are assessing the tsunami threat to New Zealand.

The quake hit about 63 kilometres southwest of Kirakira in the Solomon Islands, and about 211 kilometres southeast of Honiara. It struck at a depth of 40 kilometres. The preliminary measurement was magnitude 8.0.

Major earthquake strikes Solomon Islands

A USGS map with the star showing the epicentre of the quake, and coloured squares showing reports of feeling the shakes (USGS)

"Hazardous tsunami waves from this earthquake are possible within the next three hours along some coasts of Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, New Caledonia, Tuvalu and Kosrae," the United States' National Weather Service, National Tsunami Warning Center says.

It is one of the most powerful earthquakes recorded in 2016.

Earlier on Friday morning a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck off the northern coast of California.