And seismologists from the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center have warned the most recent tremor could trigger potentially hazardous tsunami waves of up to one metre for the island, as well as Fiji and Vanuatu.

But US-based seismologists have offered reassurances to people concerned by the apparent spike in activity in recent days.

The quake struck at a shallow depth of six miles some 230 miles east of the New Caledonian capital, Noumea, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

It was initially reported as magnitude 7 before being upgraded, and was followed by four aftershocks.

Waves measuring one foot were possible on island coastlines around the Pacific and as far away as Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, it said.

New Caledonia’s Civil Defence spokesman Olivier Ciry said waves measuring 16 inches were recorded on the main island of New Caledonia.

He explained that they only reached two inches high at the Loyalty Islands, which are about 60 miles closer to the epicentre.

He added: “We felt it and they felt it more strongly on the Loyalty Islands.

“There was some movement of the sea but no damage to buildings, no injuries to people and it’s over now.”

Laisenia Rawace, technical officer at Fiji’s seismology monitoring department, said: “We’re still monitoring it and on standby but there’s nothing on the tide gauges for the time being.”

The latest tremor struck 10 days after a massive but very deep quake rocked the sea floor near Fiji and 11 months after big quakes hit near the Loyalty Islands, also without damage.

USGS’s latest map shows a total of 25 quakes around the Ring of Fire, a region of high seismic activity which stretches 25,000 miles around the Pacific basin.

Apart from the cluster around New Caledonia, others included another measuring 5.7 90 miles west of Lambasa in Fiji at a depth of just over six miles, a 6.4 quake 84 miles east-north-east of the Northern Mariana Islands at a depth of 37 miles, as well as moderate quakes reported as far away as Indonesia and Chile.

In addition, the US state of California was the scene of four minor tremors, the strongest of which reached a magnitude of 4.4.

Also, the US state of Alaska, which is not generally regarded as being within the Ring of Fire, has been the scene of 15 minor quakes in the last 24 hours.

The most powerful of these measured 4.6 and was centred on the Manley Hot Springs region.

Jascha Polet, a seismologist at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona told the Live Science website: “I have not heard of any seismologists who fear that California is about to experience ‘the big one’.

”In the past few days, there have been more large earthquakes globally than on average, but that will happen in any random distribution.”

Kasey Aderhold, a seismologist with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, added: “The bottom line is that a large and potentially damaging earthquake will occur in California and other locations in the world, and communities should continue to review and improve their preparations and plans.

“Big earthquakes elsewhere are a good reminder.”


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