Big Pacific quakes create tiny tsunami

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Three powerful earthquakes rocked the South Pacific near the Vanuatu archipelago today, generating a small tsunami just over a week after another, massive wave killed 178 people in the Samoas and Tonga.

There were no immediate reports of damage, and all tsunami warnings and watches for the Pacific were canceled two hours after they were first issued.

The warnings caused thousands of residents to flee to higher ground in at least two Pacific islands.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said sea-level readings indicated a tiny tsunami formed after a quake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck 183 miles northwest of the Vanuatu island of Santo, and 354 miles northwest of the capital of Port Vila, at a depth of 21 miles.

Just 15 minutes later a second quake with a magnitude of 7.3 hit at the same depth but 21 miles farther north of Santo and Port Vila. A third of magnitude 7.1 was recorded nearly an hour later, 175 miles northwest of Santo at a depth of nine miles.

There were no immediate reports of injury or damage from officials in Vanuatu, a chain of 83 islands. It lies just over 1,400 miles northeast of Sydney, Australia.

"We have no damage reports yet, but we have had no contact with Santo so far," Vanuatu police spokesman Take Rakau said.