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Major quake strikes off Tonga

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  • Strong quake strikes off Pacific Ocean island of Tonga
  • Epicenter about 213 km south-southeast of Nuku'alofa, Tonga
  • Regional tsunami warning issued but later canceled
  • No immediate reports of major damage or casualties
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(CNN) -- A tsunami warning was issued and then canceled Friday shortly after a major earthquake struck early Friday off the coast of Tonga.

The earthquake "generated a small tsunami," but there is "no evidence of destructive waves," said Stewart Weinstein, assistant director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii.

Robert Cessaro, a geophysicist with the center, said: "There's a tsunami in the water, but it's not gonna do much."

On the largest island in the Tonga chain, Tongatapu, in the capital city of Nukualofa, a clerk at the International Dateline Hotel said the earthquake was felt but caused no damage.

At the Fafa Island Resort, off Nukualofa, Joseph Sanladerer told CNN that the earthquake woke up guests and shook wine glasses from racks, but caused no significant damage. iReport: Did you feel the quake?

The tsunami center issued the regional tsunami warning for parts of the Pacific near the quake's epicenter, about 213 kilometers (132 miles) south-southeast of Nuku'alofa, Tonga. The quake struck at 6:17 a.m. local time (6:17 p.m. GMT).

At a depth of just 6.2 miles (10 km), it is considered a shallow earthquake. Typically, the shallower the quake, the more destructive potential it carries. But that is not always the case.

The USGS recorded the quake as 7.9 magnitude; the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said it was 7.7. There were no immediate reports of damage or death.

The earthquake struck a few hours after a volcano erupted off Tongatapu, Tonga, about 200 km away.


Ken Hudnut, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, California, said: "The association with the volcanic activity seems to be an interesting added dimension to this. It's not clear at this point that there is a direct association, but it seems suggestive at this point."

The Indo-Australian geologic plate goes above the Pacific plate there, making earthquakes fairly common events in the area, called the Tonga Kermadec trench, he said.

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