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Earthquake Hits Solomon Islands
Map of earthquake location today (Feb. 1, 2013) in the Solomon Islands.
Credit: USGS.

An earthquake of preliminary magnitude 6.7 struck today near the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The temblor's epicenter was 42 miles (68 km) southwest of Lata, Solomon Islands, and 332 miles (534 km) north-northwest of Luganville, Vanuatu. It originated 21.3 miles (32.4 km) deep and struck at 10:16 p.m. local time (0916 UTC), the USGS reports.

In the in the past 24 hours, several smaller quakes ranging from 4.6 to 6.0 in magnitude have struck the region, which lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a narrow zone around the Pacific Ocean where a large chunk of Earth's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. No tsunami warning was issued.

Earthquakes of this size can cause significant damage, especially with poorly built structures. Even well designed buildings can be damaged or, in some cases, destroyed depending on the severity of the quake and a building’s proximity to the epicenter. But the damage caused by any single event depends on the quake's depth, proximity to populated areas, building standards in the region, as well as the type of earthquake. The USGS frequently updates the magnitude of an event after more data is analyzed.

An earthquake's magnitude is a measure of the energy released at the source. It is just one predictor of the shaking that may ensue, which is affected by local and regional geology. Scientists know in a general sense what causes Earthquakes but are unable to predict specific quakes.

This article will be updated if significant additional information becomes available. Find more earthquake news here.