7.8 quake near Solomon Islands; South Pacific on tsunami alert

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Dangerous waves are heading to some coasts in the South Pacific after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit close to the Solomon Islands early Friday, forecasters said.

“Based on all available data, hazardous tsunami waves are forecast for some coasts,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

The earthquake hit less than 30 kilometers off the island of Makira — and 70 kilometers southwest of the island’s city of Kirakira — about 4:38 a.m. local time Friday (12:38 p.m. ET Thursday), the US Geological Survey said.

Waves measuring 1 to 3 meters (3 to 10 feet) above tidal levels are possible along some coasts of the Solomon Islands, and waves under 1 meter above tides are possible for the coasts of Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, the tsunami warning center said.

“The earthquake was one of the biggest and longest I have ever felt,” said Tali Hong, a resident of the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara, some 200 kilometers northwest of the epicenter. “I was born here in Honiara and lived here most of my life.

“I’m located in central Honiara, in one of the big urban areas. Just checked with my neighbors and surrounding area; there is not visible damage. However, we have no electricity at the moment.”

Minutes after the major quake, another — magnitude 5.5 — hit in the same area.

A tsunami watch that had been issued for Hawaii following the first quake was canceled, the PTWC said.

Makira, also known as San Cristobal, is one of the southernmost parts of the Solomon Islands, an archipelago located hundreds of kilometers northeast of Australia that is home to more than 500,000 people.