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Strong 6.5-magnitude quake strikes off Tonga: USGS

A strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck off the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday, the US Geological Survey said, but there was no immediate tsunami warning or reports of significant damage.

NUKU'ALOFA: A strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck off the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday, the US Geological Survey said, but there was no immediate tsunami warning or reports of significant damage.

The undersea quake hit 71 kilometres (44 miles) northeast of the Tongan capital Nuku'alofa at a shallow depth of 10 kilometres, the USGS said.

Residents reported a "short, very violent" jolt at around 7pm local time (0600 GMT) that knocked items off shelves and sent people fleeing for higher ground, though there was no indication of a tsunami.

"Houses shook violently and people could be heard shouting warnings to each other with babies crying," the Matangi Tonga website said.

"The shaking continued for less than a minute. It is after dark in Tonga where the sun has set."

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue an alert, and the USGS said there was a low likelihood of casualties and damage.

Seismologists in Tonga confirmed there had been no tsunami warning issued.

Geoscience Australia estimated the tremor as a slightly weaker magnitude 6.3 and said it would have been felt within a wide radius but damage was unlikely.

Tonga sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a region of frequent seismic activity due to collisions between continental plates.

It last experienced a major shake in November, when a shallow 6.4-magnitude event hit 350 kilometres from the capital.

There have been several major earthquake events in the Pacific this month, including two shocks measuring 7.5, a 7.6 and 7.1-magnitude tremor off the Solomon Islands which killed at least two people and prompted tsunami alerts.

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