Strong Earthquake hits off Tonga

NEIAFU, TONGA (BNO NEWS) — A strong earthquake shook the Pacific island nation of Tonga on early Thursday morning, seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The 5.7-magnitude earthquake at 8.43 a.m. local time (1943 GMT Wednesday) was centered approximately 90 kilometers (55 miles) north of Neiafu, the second-largest town in Tonga.

It struck about 89.3 kilometers (55.5 miles) deep, making it an intermediate depth earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The agency estimated that several people may have perceived moderate shaking, while some 18,000 others may have felt light earthquake shaking. “There is a low likelihood of casualties and damage,” the USGS added.

Tongo is on the so-called ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions also occur frequently in the region, which is one of the most geologically active parts in the world.

On September 29, 2009, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck 185 kilometers (115 miles) east-northeast of Hihifo on Tonga, unleashing giant tsunamis that killed nearly 200 people and injured hundreds more on Tonga, American Samoa, Samoa, and other nearby islands.

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