The U.S. Geological Survey says a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck Friday in the south Pacific, prompting tsunami warnings that were later lifted for the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia and Vanuatu.
The USGS says the quake happened at 02:57 Universal Time 334 kilometers east of the city of Vao on New Caledonia, or 436 kilometers southwest of Vanuatu.
Another large quake - a magnitude 5.9 - was recorded in the same area about 10 minutes later.
The quake zone is southwest of Fiji, north of New Zealand and east of Australia, where the Coral Sea meets the Pacific.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) issued a tsunami warning for the region with the possibility of destructive waves up to one meter high. It was later lifted.
Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office issued a tsunami advisory, and residents were advised to seek higher ground. French news agency Agence France-Presse posted video of residents in New Caledonia's capital, Noumea, on a hillside watching for developments.
Some areas of Vanuatu reported waves about half a meter above normal tide level.
In its report, the USGS said the earthquake was the "result of normal faulting near the plate boundary interface between the Australia and Pacific plates." It said, "Earthquakes of this size are more appropriately described as slip over a larger fault area."
The region is part of the "Ring of Fire," an arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world's earthquakes occur.
Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.