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Fiji 'spared' as cyclone weakens
by Staff Writers
Suva, Fiji (AFP) April 7, 2016

6.9 earthquake hits off Vanuatu, no tsunami threat
Sydney (AFP) April 7, 2016 - A 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit off the Vanuatu coast Thursday, the second major tremor in the area in as many days, but there was no tsunami threat or reports of damage, seismologists said.

The quake struck at a depth of 32 kilometres (19.9 miles) some 109 kilometres west of Sola on Vanua Lava island and 453 kilometres from the capital Port Vila at 0332 GMT, the United States Geological Survey said.

It was the third quake to hit the region in a week, after similarly sized ones on Sunday and Wednesday.

"The last two did not cause any damage so we don't expect this one to," Geoscience Australia seismologist Spiro Spiliopoulos told AFP.

"This earthquake is a little bit further north than the last two, there's a sequence of earthquakes happening and they seem to be moving gradually north.

"Often you get a large main shock and then lots of aftershocks. In this case you are getting three major shocks. We've seen it before but it's not the most common occurrence."

Vanuatu is part of the "Ring of Fire", a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific that is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Fiji lifted emergency restrictions Thursday after the Pacific nation avoided a direct hit from Tropical Cyclone Zena and the storm weakened as it moved offshore.

Authorities had imposed a nationwide curfew as Zena bore down on the main island Viti Levu overnight Wednesday, fearing a repeat of super cyclone Winston, which killed 44 people in February.

But meteorologists said Zena weakened, rather than intensifying, and tracked further south than expected, staying out to sea and leaving the island relatively unscathed.

"After a blissfully uneventful night across Fiji we can give thanks," Suva's Nadraki weather forecasting service said.

"All who planned for the worst and hoped for the best were rewarded for their efforts by having everything turn out okay."

The cyclone was preceded by heavy rain and flash flooding that claimed two lives, but the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said it could have been much worse.

"Viti Levu has been spared a second major disaster in as many months," it said.

"The weather has now dramatically improved in most areas and flood waters are starting to subside."

Roads reopened and international flights resumed, with a police-enforced curfew lifted early Thursday.

But OCHA said the thousands of people still in temporary accommodation after Winston -- the most powerful storm in Fiji's history -- had a "miserable night" in heavy rains.

"Health and hygiene concerns remain including the risk of mosquito and water-borne diseases," it said.

Forecasters said Zena had been downgraded to a category two system and was heading east towards neighbouring Tonga, where authorities warned residents to expect thunderstorms, high winds and heavy swells.

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Previous Report
Fiji residents ordered to stay inside as cyclone looms
Suva, Fiji (AFP) April 6, 2016
Authorities in Fiji ordered people to stay inside as a tropical cyclone bore down on the Pacific tourist destination Wednesday, taking no chances after a recent monster storm killed 44 people. Tropical Cyclone Zena rapidly developed from a low pressure trough to an intense category three storm that was approaching the main island Vita Levu, the Fiji Meteorological Service said. It was pr ... read more

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