Papua New Guinea rattled by 6.3 quake

SYDNEY, July 25, 2011 (AFP) - The Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea was rattled by a powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake Monday, but seismologists said the tremor was unlikely to have caused major damage in the remote area.

Geoscience Australia measured the quake at magnitude 6.3 and said it occurred at a depth of 39 kilometres (24 miles) in the New Ireland region known for earthquake and volcanic activity.

"There would have been plenty of shaking there and there could have been some damage pretty close by, but these northern islands are pretty sparsely populated," Geoscience Australia seismologist Hugh Glanville said.

"Being under 6.5, we don't issue tsunami warnings."

The United States Geological Survey put the quake at 6.2 magnitude and said it struck about 201 kilometres (124 miles) northwest of New Britain's township of Rabaul and 794 kilometres (492 miles) from national capital Port Moresby.

"There could have been some damage very close by, but no major damage to large population centres," Glanville added.

Papua New Guinea, which is mired in poverty despite rich mineral deposits, sits on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire", a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.

A giant tsunami in 1997, caused by an undersea earthquake or a landslide, killed more than 3,500 people near Aitapi, on the country's northwest coast.

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