The United States Geological Survey said the 7.0-magnitude quake –  originally reported as 7.3, struck at a relatively shallow depth of 35 kilometres, some 209 kilometres from the capital Port Vila.

The National Tsunami Warning Center (NTWC) initially warned the quake, which hit at 1933 GMT, could generate waves of up to three metres on parts of the Vanuatu coast.

Within two hours it had cancelled the alert, saying "there is no longer a tsunami threat from this earthquake".

Port Vila journalist Moses Stevens said he was not aware of any damage in the capital, while tourist resort manager Dave Cross said it was felt strongly on the island of Espiritu Santo. "We really felt the shake because it was so shallow, but all we lost was a vase and some flowers," he told media.

"I'm told there was a small wave, but that was the extent of it." He added: "Earthquakes are just part of life here."

Vanuatu is part of the "Ring of Fire", a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific that is subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

A series of tremors have been recorded in the region this month, including a 6.9 magnitude one, also close to Espiritu Santo island. No damage was reported from any of them.

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