At least five people were killed today when a powerful earthquake followed by a damaging tsunami struck the small Pacific nation of the Solomon Islands
The US Geological Survey said the quake struck near the Santa Cruz Islands in the Solomons, which have been hit by strong tremors over the past week, at a depth of 3.5 miles (5.8 kilometres).
"We know that a tsunami has been created," said Geoscience Australia seismologist David Jepsen. "It's a big earthquake anyway in terms of just the shaking."
Evacuations in the Suva district of Fiji
Two powerful aftershocks of 6.4 and 6.6 magnitude were also recorded.
Solomons officials reported two 1.5-metre (4 foot, 11-inch) waves hit the western side of Santa Cruz Island, damaging around 50 homes and properties, said George Herming, a spokesman for the prime minister.
Many villagers had headed to higher ground as a precaution, Mr Herming said.
Traffic backed-up in Fiji as residents fled to high ground
Solomon Islands Police Commissioner John Lansley said local police patrols had reported that several people were presumed dead, though the reports were still being verified.
"Sadly, we believe some people have lost their lives," he said. "At the moment we potentially know of four, but there may of course be more."
Locals in the island's capital, Honiara, 580 kilometres (360 miles) from the epicentre, said the quake was not felt there, but three villages on the Santa Cruz islands were damaged, according to hospital director Augustine Bilve.
"We were told that after the shaking, waves came to the villages," he said. "So far, we are waiting in Lata and are evacuating patients in case there are any casualties."
In Honiara, the capital city of the islands, the warnings prompted residents to flee for higher ground, although most people remained calm.
"People are still standing on the hills outside of Honiara just looking out over the water, trying to observe if there is a wave coming in," Mr Herming said.
"People around the coast and in the capital are ringing in and trying to get information from us and the National Disaster Office and are slowly moving up to higher ground," said another official. "But panic? No, no, no, people are not panicking."
In 2007 a tsunami following an 8.1-magnitude earthquake killed at least 52 people in the Solomons and left thousands homeless.
The Solomon Islands are part of the "Ring of Fire", a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific Ocean that is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.