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Magnitude 7.6 Earthquake Prompts Tsunami Warning For South Pacific Islands

A view of the bay of Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, seen earlier this year. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that a magnitude 7.6 earthquake may threaten Noumea with dangerous waves Wednesday afternoon local time.
A view of the bay of Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, seen earlier this year. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that a magnitude 7.6 earthquake may threaten Noumea with dangerous waves Wednesday afternoon local time.
Theo Rouby/AP

Updated at 2:32 a.m. ET

A massive earthquake has struck beneath the waters of the South Pacific, and dangerously powerful waves may soon follow. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center is cautioning that the magnitude 7.6 quake, which struck Wednesday afternoon local time, could pose risks for Vanuatu and the nearby island chain of New Caledonia.

"Hazardous tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 1000 km [roughly 620 miles] of the earthquake epicenter," the service said.

The epicenter was recorded just over 100 miles southeast of Tadine, a town on the Loyalty Islands, which are part of New Caledonia. The region's high commission ordered residents to immediately evacuate to high ground and refuge areas, according to The Guardian.

New Caledonia, a French overseas territory, has a population of about 259,000.

Meanwhile Vanuatu, an independent archipelago nation, also faces the risk of a tsunami. The PTWC warned that the country's Anatom and Epertu islands both could see dangerous waves within an hour or two of the earthquake's strike.

New Zealand, for its part, quickly announced that its residents would face "no tsunami threat."

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