A magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck the South Pacific on Friday, triggering tsunami warnings for a number of Pacific island nations.
Waves as high as three feet could hit Vanuatu, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s tsunami warning system reported. The authorities in Vanuatu, an island nation with a population of about 300,000, urged people in coastal areas to move to higher ground.
The earthquake struck southeast of the Loyalty Islands in the French territory of New Caledonia at about 2 p.m. local time on Friday.
The U.S. agency issued a tsunami alert for coasts within 600 miles of the earthquake epicenter, including Vanuatu. It said waves of up to one foot could strike the coasts of New Caledonia, as well as Fiji, Kiribati, Australia and New Zealand.
The agency initially said that waves of up to 10 feet were possible for Vanuatu, and up to three feet for other countries in the region, but it later downgraded its estimates.
New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency said it expected the country’s coastal areas to experience “strong and unusual currents and unpredictable surges at the shore” and urged people along its northeastern shore to move away from beaches, harbors and rivers.