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Magnitude 7.5 quake strikes in Pacific near New Caledonia

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The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre says tsunami waves have been spotted following the earthquake

A 7.5 magnitude quake has struck close to New Caledonia in the Pacific, with a tsunami alert issued for coasts within 1,000km (620 miles).

The epicentre of the quake was around 300 km (186.4 miles) east of the New Caledonia capital Noumea, but it was so strong that experts said small tsunami waves may be seen as far away as Antarctica and Russian Federation.

There was no tsunami threat to New Zealand.

New Zealand's ministry of civil defence and emergency management tweeted that there was no tsunami threat to the nation's coasts.

Tsunami waves were recorded moving out from the epicentre, prompting people to flee to high ground.

Tsunamis at minimal levels vary with slightly higher waves with minimal landfalls, and usually up to five minutes apart.

There were no immediate reports of damage from the natural disaster, but the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said that waves had been "observed" and could reach up to three metres in height. An initial tsunami threat has now passed, however.

Production of nickel, New Caledonia's dominant export, was briefly interrupted by the quake, however.

The undersea quake was only 10km deep and about 155km east-southeast of the Loyalty Islands off New Caledonia's east coast.

Mr Rene said so far there were no reports of a tsunami or damage in the Loyalty islands.

"The building shook, but there was no damage", he told AFP.

Waves measured by quake monitors around the region only reached about 72cm on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu. "For now, nothing serious has happened".

New Caledonia, with a population of 269,000 people, is a French Pacific territory.

At least six aftershocks also hit, ranging in magnitude from 5.6 to 6.6.

"We get a lot of earthquakes every year", he said.

Local journalist Charlie Rene told RNZ the tremor could hardly be felt in the capital Noumea about 300 kilometres from the epicentre.

Last month, voters in New Caledonia elected to remain a territory of France rather than becoming independent.

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