The Republic of Vanuatu was hit by a major 7.5-magnitude earthquake. It hit off the coast of the South Pacific island of Vanuatu on Sunday.
The quake struck at 3:55 am (1655 GMT Saturday) at a depth of 40 kilometers (25 miles), around 60 kilometers south of Port Vila, the capital of the island nation.
There was no tsunami warning in effect on the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center website, and there were no immediate reports of damage.
Minutes after the first quake, a second smaller 5.9-magnitude tremor was detected by seismologists.
Vanuatu – a string of more than 80 islands once known as the New Hebrides – achieved independence from France and Britain in 1980. Most of the islands are inhabited; some have active volcanoes.
Vanuatu is mountainous and much of it is covered with tropical rainforests. Like most of the area, it is prone to earthquakes and tidal waves. Most of the people live in rural areas and practice subsistence agriculture.
Local traditions are strong. Women, for example, generally have lower social standing than men and have fewer educational opportunities. Despite strong growth, the economy has struggled to meet the needs of Vanuatu’s expanding population.
The main sources of revenue are agriculture and eco-tourism. Both depend on the weather, and when, as in 1999, cyclones and persistent rain hit Vanuatu, both suffer.