Strong quake strikes off Tonga: USGS

A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 hit off the Pacific island nation of Tonga on Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said.

The earthquake struck at 1:47 am 1247 GMT Tuesday, Tongan officials said, but there were no reports of damage or injuries, and no warning for a widespread tsunami was issued.

USGS said the earthquake was centred 134 kilometres 80 miles northeast of the capital Nuku'alofa, and said it hit at 2:47 am local time.

The quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometres, USGS said, and local residents said it was strong enough to send people out of their homes.

Journalist Mary Fonua said the shaking lasted about 30 seconds in Nuku'alofa.

"We felt the house shaking and things on the wall rattling and decided to get outside," she said.

She added people in the Ha'apai island group to the north of the main island of Tongatapu were closer to the quake and reported the shaking lasting longer.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii said there was a possibility of the quake generating a localised tsunami but no damaging waves were reported.

The quake was followed by aftershocks measuring 5.6 and 5.1 in the same region.

Nine people died in September when a tsunami hit the northern Tongan island of Niuatoputapu following an 8.0-magnitude earthquake. The tsunami also killed 143 people in Samoa and another 34 in neighbouring American Samoa.

Earthquakes are common in the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where continental plates in the Earth's crust meet.