09262017Headline:

Powerful earthquake off New Caledonia prompts tsunami alert

A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.2 has struck the Pacific Ocean, centered far off the French region of New Caledonia, seismologists say. A tsunami alert that was briefly in effect for the region has now been canceled.

The earthquake, which struck at 12:26 p.m. local time on Friday, was centered about 108 kilometers (67 miles) east of Hunter Island in New Caledonia, or 514 kilometers (319 miles) southeast of Isangel in Vanuatu. It struck at a shallow depth of just 16 kilometers (9.9 miles), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially put the magnitude of the earthquake at 7.6, prompting a tsunami alert for Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia. The tsunami alerts were canceled about 30 minutes later when the USGS downgraded the magnitude to 7.2.

Because there are no populated islands in the direct vicinity of the epicenter, damage or casualties from the earthquake are not expected.

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