A powerful earthquake of 7.5 magnitude struck off the east coast of New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific, on Wednesday, said the United States Geological Survey. The shallow quake struck on Wednesday afternoon local time, at 9.48 am India time. It occurred at a depth of 10 km southeast of the Loyalty Islands.

A tsunami warning for the area was sounded based on the preliminary earthquake parameters. “Based on all available data, hazardous tsunami waves are forecast for some coasts,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a statement. “Tsunami waves reaching one to three metres above the tide level are possible along some coasts of New Caledonia and Vanuatu.”

The statement urged residents of coastal areas to stay alert for information and follow instructions from national and local authorities.

The New Caledonian High Commission issued a tsunami warning for all of New Caledonia and ordered the “immediate evacuation” of people to safe areas and the “application of safety instructions”, The Guardian reported.

“If you don’t have time to prepare your evacuation, get more than 300 m away from the coast and/or get to a height of more than 12 m of altitude,” said the Directorate for Civil Protection and Risk Management of New Caledonia.

New Zealand authorities also issued a similar warning after the quake, AFP reported.