updated 10/17/2006 12:31:39 AM ET 2006-10-17T04:31:39

A strong undersea earthquake off the Papua New Guinea island of New Britain on Tuesday sparked a warning of a possible local tsunami, but emergency officials said there had been no reports of damage or casualties.

The 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck at 11:25 a.m. local time (0125 GMT), about 229 km (142 miles) southwest of the island capital Rabaul, said the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The depth was recorded at 58 kms (36 miles) below sea level.

Papua New Guinea emergency authorities said they were still checking with villages along the coast, but there were no immediate reports of a tsunami or quake damage.

In July 1998, two undersea quakes measuring 7.0 created three tsunamis that killed at least 2,100 people near the town of Aitape on Papua New Guinea’s north coast.

“We haven’t had any information that any tsunami was generated,” seismologist Chris McKee from Port Moresby’s Geophysical Observatory told Reuters via telephone from the capital.

“We’re still trying to get any information about possible damage. We haven’t had any yet.”

The USGS described the quake as “strong” on its website. “No destructive Pacific-wide tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake and tsunami data,” it said.

“However, earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within a hundred kilometers of the earthquake epicenter.”

Papua New Guinea lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a seismically active area with frequent earthquakes and volcanoes.

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