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Quake Jolts Bougainville Island

April 30, 1996

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) _ A powerful earthquake jolted Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville island today, and a seismologist said it may have touched off landslides and possibly a tidal wave.

The quake, recorded off the west coast of Bougainville, had a magnitude of 7.5, said Kevin McCue, a senior research scientist at the Australian Seismological Center.

It was not known whether it caused injuries or damage. Secessionist rebels are trying to set up their own state on the island, so Papua New Guinea has blockaded it. Few people come or go from the island except for an unknown number of troops, and news seldom filters out.

An earthquake of magnitude 7 is capable of causing widespread heavy damage, while a quake of magnitude 8 is capable of causing tremendous damage.

McCue said he thought there would be landslides and possibly a tsunami, or tidal wave. The quake could also change the pattern of nearby Mount Bagana, one of the most active volcanoes in the region.

The officer in charge of the Papua New Guinea Geophysical Observatory, Ian Ripper, said he understood the earthquake had set off a tsunami but he did not have further details.

``Bougainville is more or less a restricted area so we don’t have good connections with them,″ he said.

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