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Hawaii could see sea changes from Christmas quake in Vanuatu

By Star-Advertiser staff and the Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 7:36 a.m. HST, Dec 25, 2010

No waves threaten Hawaii from a 7.3-magnitude earthquake in Vanuatu, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has announced.

The Christmas quake rattled the southwest Pacific island at about 3:17 a.m. about 140 miles south of Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila. The U.S. Geological Survey said it was about 15 miles below the ocean floor.

At 3:28 a.m., the warning center notified Hawaii Civil Defense that the tsunami threat was to the Vanuatu region only.

But the center, based in Ewa Beach, said some coastal areas in Hawaii could “experience small nondestructive sea level changes and strong and unusual currents lasting up to several hours,” starting at 10:51 a.m.

A tsunami wave measuring about 6 inches was recorded on some coastlines at Vanuatu, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. New Caledonia and Fiji also were warned a tsunami was possible on their coasts, but the warning was canceled about an hour and a half after the temblor.

Vanuatu is part of the Pacific "ring of fire" — an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching from Chile in South America through Alaska and down through the South Pacific.

A 7.5 temblor that struck under the sea floor just 25 miles from Port Vila in August panicked residents but did not cause significant damage.

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