Tsunami alert cancelled after Tonga quake

01:12, Mar 24 2009

A tsunami alert for New Zealand has been cancelled, following a magnitude 7.9 earthquake near Tonga this morning.

The earthquake struck early this morning at a depth of 10 kilometres, 210 kilometres south of the Tongan capital of Nuku'alofa.

It sparked a tsunami warning from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) for Tonga, Niue, New Zealand, Kermadec Islands, American Samoa, Samoa, Wallis and Futuna and Fiji.

New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management director, John Hamilton, had issued a warning in place for around two hours, but that has now been cancelled.

The initial alert warned a tsunami was generated and ``may have been destructive along coastlines in the region''. It was later confirmed some tsunami waves were generated, but of a minor nature.

In Tonga itself, the earthquake caused panic, but no major damage was evident, said Apai Moala, senior geological assistant with the Tongan Ministry of Land and Surveys.

A massive underwater volcano has been erupting for the past week in the north of the 170 island Tongan archipelago, but the PTWC said this morning's quake was not directly related to the volcano and the two events were miles apart.

The region, along the Kermadec Arc, is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.

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