Magnitude 7.9 Earthquake Strikes West of Papua New Guinea

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A magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck west of Papua New Guinea on Jan. 22, 2017. (Credit: USGS)

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A magnitude 7.9 earthquake has struck west of Papua New Guinea.

The quake was 153 kilometers (95.5 miles) deep and centered 40 kilometers (24 miles) west of the town of Panguna, according to the US Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has advised that tsunami waves of up to a meter above the tide level are possible for some coasts of Papua New Guinea and nearby Solomon Islands.

Preliminary reports said the earthquake, which occurred at 2:30 p.m. local time Sunday (11:30 p.m. Saturday ET) measured 8.0 but USGS later downgraded its magnitude.

The USGS estimates that 72,000 people would have experienced severe shaking as a result of the quake.

The predominant structure of homes in the area meant they were vulnerable to earthquakes, it said, and fatalities were possible.

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