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Powerful Quake Reported, No One Hurt on Remote Island

October 20, 1986

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ An earthquake powerful enough to cause tremendous damage struck a remote Pacific archipelago Monday, but New Zealand scientists on the only inhabited island said no one was hurt.

″They’re all okay. There’s no damage. No one was injured,″ said Jeremy Lumley, a technical officer at the meteorological observatory in Wellington.

″They said a few things tumbled off the shelves. That’s about it,″ he said. ″The quake lasted from about 45 seconds to a minute and was followed by two aftershocks.″

He spoke by telephone after making contact with the scientists at the weather station on Raoul in the Kermadec Islands, about 750 miles northeast of New Zealand’s North Island and south of Tonga. New Zealand administers the Kermadecs.

The U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., said the temblor was a ″great″ quake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, which would make it the biggest earthquake since one of the same strength that devastated parts of Mexico City on Sept. 19, 1985.

Spokesmen for the agency said the worst earthquake in the Kermadec area registered 8.6 on the Richter scale and occured May 1, 1917.

Several monitoring stations in the Pacific basin reported Monday’s tremor at 8 on the scale.

Mike Randall, chief instrumentalist at the observatory, said the weather station on Raoul was operated by a handful of New Zealanders. Raoul, the only inhabited island in the Kermadecs, sometimes is called Sunday Island.

A wide area of the South Pacific was put on alert in case the quake set off a tsunami, or giant underwater wave, but the warning was canceled after reports from Pago Pago, Western Samoa, that the water level there rose only four inches.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, said the quake’s epicenter was near 28.2 south latitude and 176.6 west longitude.

Its tsunami watch applied to islands closest to the epicenter: Fiji, American Samoa, Western Samoa, the Cook Islands, New Caledonia, New Zealand and French Polynesia.

The Richter scale measures the magnitude of a quake at its epicenter, according to ground motion as recorded on seismographs.

A quake of 6 or more is considered ″severe,′ capable of causing widespread damage near the epicenter. Any quake with a Richter reading of 8 or more is considered a ″great″ quake capable of doing tremendous damage.

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