Strong quake rattles Solomon Islands
HONIARA, Solomon Islands — A 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the Solomon Islands on Tuesday, swaying buildings, hurling items off shelves and briefly knocking out power in parts of the capital Honiara.
There were no reports of serious injuries or major structural damage.
"This was a big one," Joy Nisha, a receptionist with the Heritage Park Hotel in the capital, told AFP.
"Some of the things in the hotel fell. Everyone seems OK, but panicky."
At one recently built mall, chunks of cladding were shaken loose, crushing the bonnet of a car and breaking the windshield.
The roof of an annex at the Australian High Commission also collapsed, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told parliament in Canberra, stating "there are no known injuries."
Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said damage assessments were ongoing and it was too early to know what military assistance might be sent to help.
"We always stand ready to support our Pacific neighbors," he told AFP by phone from Siem Reap, Cambodia.
"We will no doubt look at what the needs are... and go from there."
An AFP reporter in Honiara said the shaking lasted for around 20 seconds.
Power was immediately knocked out in some areas of the capital and phone lines were also down.
Across the city, people fled their homes and workplaces for higher ground, fearing a tsunami.
"I was really scared because this is the first time I felt this kind of earthquake," said a manager at the Pacific Casino Hotel, who asked not to be named.
"The building was really violently shaking... It was really strong, it made you move side to side."
Dozens of staff and guests fled the building to the relative safety of the car park, hoping not to be hit by debris on the way out.
The nation's attorney general, John Muria, posted images on social media of office files that had spilled from several large metal cabinets.
The quake struck at a relatively shallow depth of 15 kilometers, just off the southwest coast of Guadalcanal island, according to the US Geological Survey.
A tsunami warning was issued for an area of the Solomons coast within 300 kilometers of the epicenter, but the UN-backed Pacific warning center later said the threat had "largely" passed.
As nightfall approached, power was starting to return to Honiara, but local authorities urged caution.
"We expect aftershocks so people should stay alert around buildings and tall structures because of the size of the earthquake," said David Hiba Hiriasia, director of the Solomon Islands Meteorological Service.
Staff at one hospital were readying to evacuate patients if needed.
According to UN data, about 20,000 people live within 50 kilometers of the epicenter.
The Solomons—a sprawling archipelago in the South Pacific—are home to about 800,000 people. — Agence France-Presse