Vanuatu massive earthquakes and aftershocks : impressive "experience" reports (20/08/2011)

Earthquake overview : A massive earthquake measuring 7.5 magnitude struck the Vanuatu area at 3:55 AM in the night. A tsunami with theoretical waves up to 1.9 meters could be expected on a Vanuatu island
Read also our initial in-depth report "Massive earthquake near Vanuatu Efate Island" -  Click here

The following report has been send by Australian Colin O'Brien from  Melbourne, now In Port Vila

Coconut Péalms Hotel in Port Vila, Vanuatu - courtesy

I have been here in Port Vila mostly for the past 8 weeks and not used to earthquakes as i am living in Melbourne, Australia.
The 3.55am quake was pretty big and had me running to the door...I am in the ground floor of a three story motel.  I have read various reports re its size at 7.5 but the US geological site says 7.1...40 minutes or so later there was another large quake (5.9) and then at 5.20 am came the big one (reported as 7.0).  This was in addition to four or five constant tremors which I believe all over 5.0.
The third big one of 7.0 was clearly worse than the first and very severe as.
I ran to the doorway and held on as I could not stand.
It seemed to last for 40 to 60 seconds but I could not be sure.
It shook the floor, walls, ceiling and windows and was very noisy.
I felt that if it had gone on for much longer there would have been some damage caused.
The water in the pool became a wave as it sloshed back and forth and spilt over.

The tremors continued for 3 hours and as I flew to another island for a few days did not experience the ongoing tremors...but 1 hour after I returned on Wednesday felt two small ones and today (Thursday ER) at around 10am there was another tremor in my office which had quite a few of us go seemed to last 30 to 40 seconds, perhaps longer.  I read it was 6.2 and the shallowest of all the 17 quakes since last Saturday evening over 5.0.
I have not heard of major damage from anyone but expect there will be some structural cracks in various buildings...with such severe shaking from the last I think it would be difficult to believe there was no damage.

As I have been writing this on Thursday evening there have been small tremors for the past 30 minutes.
With so many quakes over 5.0 since Saturday and the 6.2 this morning it is hard to think that it is going to just stop.
For some reason I did not even consider a tsunami and although warnings were issued by mobile phone mine was turned off!
I now have a small pack, clothes and shoes by the door.

Colin O'Brien, Melbourne, now In Port Vila

Felt report from another Australian on a holiday in Vanuatu :

I was in Vanuatu on the 20th August 2011 when Earthquake hit. I was woken by the first one and struggled to get down to my children in there bedroom. Once I knew all were safe I logged onto my laptop to check Tsunami warnings for there area,which at the time were listed as local ones only.
The second quake was more than an aftershock which I believe was around a 5 mag it was still disturbing all the same. At the time on turning on the TV the BBC News had reported that an Earthquake had hit Vanuatu this was approx 20 minutes after the first. I know a lot of reports state that the first quake was the biggest however my own personal experience and that of fellow locals and tourists was that the 3rd quake super seeded the previous 2.
The shaking of the building and the noise was unbelievable (A freight train would have been quieter) .I once again went to my children, however found myself crawling in a crab motion to get to them as I was not able to stand up without injuring myself. After grabbing the kids we ran out through the ground floor balcony to the grass and then walked up the hill at the Le Lagon Resort. We seeked refuge here for an hour until I thought it was safe that a Tsunami was not coming. Most tourists were scared to death,more so those with children. The staff at Le Lagon were of no help and we were left to our own devices and decisions to be made. Once day broke most of damage was superficial however there was no follow up by hotel management to make sure guest were ok and explain that all was ok.
We continued to receive aftershocks right up until we left last Wednesday. It sure to suck the life out of our holiday. My recommendation for any tourist that intends to travel to Vanuatu please read the Smart Traveller web site which gives you procedures in hotel and were to go if something like this happens again. Do not rely on hotel staff they are saving themselves and there own families at the same time. (Received on August 29)   - MMI VIII severe shaking reported

Experience reports from the M 5.2 aftershock on August 27 2011

M 5.2      2011/08/27 12:07     Depth 53.0 km     VANUATU
11:07:35 PM at epicenter
Aftershock very close to Efate's Port-Vila.
Based on the reports we are receiving from people living in Port-Vila, this aftershock did more than all the other aftershocks which epicenter's were mostly at a greater distance from Efate.
47 km (29 miles) S (179°) from PORT-VILA, Vanuatu
Satellite map of the greater epicenter area
Felt Reports from Vanuatu :
Port-Vila : its just pretty scary.I only moved here 1 week ago just as the big one hit on 20.8.11 and we've been having small ones ever since. The one just now about 11.10pm was almost as big as last saturdays i think - MMI VII
Port-Vila : Just had another house rattling jolt here in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Sat PM around 11;15pm local time. Probably around 6 on the scale. August has been a busy earthquake month again for us this year with several noticeable quakes this time last year as well. I live outside of Port Vila on a small bay. It is very quiet and I hear the earthquakes coming. They sound like are very large cattle truck coming down the road and they always have a distinct sound that separates them from a general traffic type of noise. A few things fell over but no damage. Our house was bought in from NZ and is made of timber. It usually sways but not visible damage once again. Steve - MMI V
Port-Vila : We had a 5.2 shake around 11pm.  Was quite intense, kitchen sounded like it was going to explode with glassware rattling for what seemed like several seconds. Felt like something had picked up the place and was giving it a good shaking. Thankfully didn't last long! Just noticed this morning that the rubber is starting to come out from around my bedroom window.


  1. Barry Shakey says

    I do not know how they can live with whole lot of shaking going on. Maybe the islanders can cash in their coconuts and split.

    • Armand Vervaeck says

      A good question. What happens with the coconuts during an earthquake ? Do they fall, which may be often a bigger risk than the earthquake itself 🙂

    • Barry Shakey says

      They should be nominated for the rock n roll hall of fame.