A POWERFUL earthquake measuring 7.3 has hit off the east coast of New Caledonia triggering a tsunami alert.

The quake struck around 10am (AEDT) at a depth 25 kilometres, some 85 kilometres to the east of the lightly populated Loyalty Islands, initial data from the survey said.

There was no immediate news on damage or casualties.

However an alert from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said: "Hazardous tsunami waves from this earthquake are possible within 300 km of the epicenter along the coasts of Vanuatu and New Caledonia".

The United State Geological Survey estimated as many as 400,000 people in the nearby islands would have felt the earthquakes.

The USGS said damages and casualties where possible because structures in the region are very vulnerable to earthquakes.

Home to around 278,000 people New Calendonia consists of a string of islands and is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a highly active fault line circling the Pacific Ocean.

Last month the same region was hit with a 6.8 magnitude earthquake.

 



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