Earthquake Triggers Tsunami Warning in Pacific Ocean

May 27, 2010 Updated: May 27, 2010

An earthquake registering 7.2 in the southern Pacific Ocean near the island of Vanuatu, triggered a tsunami warning this Thursday, at 1:14 p.m. (EDT).

The islands of Vanuatu, Samoa and New Caledonia were warned of a possible Tsunami. “An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicenter within minutes to hours,” read the message from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

At 22.4 miles below the ocean level, the epicenter of the earthquake was 134 miles NNW of Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu. A first message at 1:26 p.m. (EDT), only 11 minutes after the earthquake shook the area, reported the earthquake's magnitude as 7.6 on the Richter scale.

An hour later, the estimated was measure was reduced to 7.2 and the warning was canceled after sea levels showed no signs of a Tsunami.

Four aftershocks struck Vanuatu over the next six hours registering 5.7, 5.2, 6.4, 5.2 and 5.7 respectively on the Richter scale.

Tsunamis are a series of potentially devastating waves. The time between successive waves can be five minutes to one hour.

A Tsunami in the region last year killed almost 200 people, following an earthquake of 8.1 on the Richter scale. Six hours later, the earthquake calmed down to a 5.0 according to the updates on the US Geological Survey.