The 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck 97.5miles east of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea this morning causing tsunami waves to hit the Solomon Islands.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said widespread hazardous tsunami waves reaching up to nine feet were possible along the coast of Papua New Guinea.
The earthquake triggered a widespread tsunami warning for the Pacific region with tsunami waves possible along the coasts of Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Nauru, Kosrae and Vanuatu.
New Zealand’s Civil Defence also issued a tsunami warning.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said “tsunami waves have been observed” at Tarekukure Wharf and Dart.
The US National Tsunami Warning Centre analysed the earthquake to determine the level of danger.
In a statement, the Centre said: “Earthquakes of this size are known to generate tsunamis potentially dangerous to coasts outside the source region.
“This earthquake has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami in the source region.”
People living along Papua New Guinea’s coastline fled to higher ground including hospital patients.
Many residents in the northern parts of the autonomous region of Bougainville sought higher ground.
Resident Christabel Biasu said: “The town residents have vacated the whole place; those in the villages live higher up, so they’re ok, it’s just those near the coast.”
A nurse at Buka General Hospital in Bougainville said the quake was so strong it felt like the building she was sleeping in would topple. She said patients were being moved a few kilometres to higher ground.
The nurse said: “We have about 16 beds. Most of them are already a suburb up.”