Written by on . Last updated July 3rd, 2024.

A shallow and significant Magnitude 5.7 earthquake struck in the South Pacific Ocean 216 kilometer from Nuku‘alofa, Tonga in the evening of Sunday May 5th, 2024. Around 10 thousand people have been exposed to shaking.

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Earthquake Summary

This earthquake hit under water in the South Pacific Ocean, 205 kilometers (128 mi) off the coast of Tonga, 216 kilometer north-northwest of Nuku‘alofa in Tongatapu. The center of this earthquake had a very shallow depth of 10 km. Shallow earthquakes usually have a larger impact than earthquakes deep in the earth.

Date and Time: May 5, 2024 08:13PM (Tongatapu Time)
- May 5, 2024 07:13 Universal Time.
Location: 216 km NNW of Nuku‘alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga.
Coordinates 19°19'0"S 175°54'32"W.
Map: Map of area around epicenter.
Map of area around epicenter. Click to open in Google Maps.
Magnitude: MAG 5.7
Detected by 23 stations. Maximum Error Range ±0.065 .
Depth: 10 km (6 mi)
A very shallow depth.
Max. Intensity:
IV
Light

On the Modified Mercalli Scale.
Tsunami Risk: Low tsunami risk
Earthquakes under MAG-6.5 do not usually cause tsunami's.
Always stay cautious - More info here.

Minimal impact predicted

Based on scientific estimates by the US Geographic Survey (USGS), the risk of high fatalities for this earthquake is classified at level GREEN (low). They expect an 65% likelyhood of between 0 and 1 fatalities, and a 96% chance that the number of fatalities falls no higher than 10.

The USGS classifies the economic impact of this earthquake at level GREEN (low). They expect an 65% likelyhood of between 0 and 1 million US Dollars in economic damage and impact, and a 96% chance that the economic impact of this earthquake falls no higher than 10 million USD.

Roughly 10 thousand people exposed to shaking

The USGS has published a report estimating the number of people exposed to this earthquake. Acoording to their analysis, roughly 10 thousand have been exposed to shaking at an MMI level of II or higher.

An estimated 10 people were exposed to level IV. At this level, light shaking and likely no damage can be expected. The majority of people (roughly 10 thousand) live in an area exposed to level III, where weak shaking and probably no damage is expected.

People in 2 countries have been exposed to shaking. Roughly 10 thousand people were exposed to shaking in Tonga , with level IV (light shaking, likely no damage) as the highest recorded.

People MMI Level Shaking Damage
0
I
Not noticable None
0
II
Very weak None
9,750
III
Weak Probably none
10
IV
Light Likely none
0
V
Moderate Very light
0
VI
Strong Light
0
VII
Very Strong Moderate
0
VIII
Severe Moderate to heavy
0
IX
Violent Heavy
0
X
Extreme Very heavy

Nearby towns and cities

This earthquake may have been felt in Tonga . The closest significant population center near the earthquake is Nuku‘alofa in Tongatapu, Tonga. Nuku‘alofa is located 216 kilometer (134 mi) north-northwest of the epicenter. Nuku‘alofa experienced an earthquake intensity (MMI Scale) of roughly III. That level implies weak shaking and probably no damage.

Overview of nearby places

Distance Place Intensity (MMI)
216 km (134 mi)
SSE from epicenter
Nuku‘alofa

Tongatapu, Tonga.
III
Weak
Cities and Towns around the epicenter of this earthquake.

Earthquake Intensity Map

The intensity in shaking and damage by this earthquake is illustrated through the map below. The highest intensity measured for this earthquake is IV.

I Not felt
II Weak
III Weak
IV Light
V Moderate
VI Strong
VII Very Strong
VIII Severe
IX Violent
X Extreme
Earthquake Intensity Map based on Shakemap Data provided by USGS.

Aftershocks detected

This main shock was prefaced by 1 smaller foreshock. Roughly 10 hrs before this earthquake, a foreshock measuring MAG-4.5 was detected nearby this earthquake.

Overview of foreshocks and aftershocks

Classification Magnitude When Where
Foreshock M 4.5 10 hrs earlier
May 5, 2024 10:18AM (Tongatapu Time)
8 km (5 mi)
NNE from Main Shock.
Main Shock
This Earthquake
M 5.7 May 5, 2024 08:13PM
(Tongatapu Time)
-
Detected MAG2.5+ earthquakes within within 100km (62 mi), that occurred in the three days before and after the main shock.

More earthquakes coming?

Earthquakes can create aftershocks. These are generally at least 1 magnitude lower than any main shock, and as time passes the chance and strength of aftershocks decreases.

It's always adviced to be cautious of the risk of a larger shock following any significant earthquake, however this risk is fairly small. There is a roughly 94 percent change that no larger main shock will follow in the days following this earthquake.

Read: How to Stay Safe during an Earthquake (cdc.gov).

Earthquakes like this happen often in the region

Earthquakes of this strength are very common in the region. This is the strongest earthquake to hit since March 2nd, 2024, when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit 290 km (180 mi) further west-southwest. An even stronger magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck on August 19th, 2018.

In total, 63 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.7 or higher have been registered within 300km (186 mi) of this epicenter in the past 10 years. This comes down to an average of once every 2 months.

Low tsunami risk

DISCLAIMER: We strongly suggest to closely monitor advice from local authorities with regards to tsunami risks. Our analysis is based on automatically collected data from external sources, and these might contain mistakes. In addition, earthquakes can cause landslides that may lead to a tsunami, or be a followed by another, potentially stonger, earthquake.

Based on early data it appears this earthquake was not strong enough (lower than MAG-6.5) to be likely to cause destructive tsunami's. However this earthquake appeared to have hit at a shallow depth under sea, so stay cautious and monitor advice from local authorities.

Tsunami Risk Factors

Factor Under Sea? MAG-6.5 or stronger? Shallow depth?
Explanation Almost all tsunami's are caused by earthquakes with their epicenter under sea or very near the sea. However stay cautious in coastal areas as earthquakes on land may cause landslides into sea, potentially still causing a local tsunami. Under MAG 6.5: Very unlikely to cause a tsunami.
MAG 6.5 to 7.5: Destructive tsunami's do occur, but are uncommon. Likely to observe small sea level changes.
MAG 7.6+: Earthquakes with these magnitudes might produce destructive tsunami's.
Most destructive tsunami's are caused by shallow earthquakes with a depth between 0 and 100km under the surface of the earth. Deeper tsunami's are unlikely to displace to ocean floor.
This Earthquake This earthquake appears to have struck under the sea. Not this earthquake.
This earthquake had a magnitude of 5.7. Earthquakes of this strength are unlikely to trigger a tsunami.
This earthquake occurred at a depth of of 10 km (6 mi). Earthquakes this shallow could trigger a tsunami.

Sources

Last updated 03/07/24 15:48 (). This article is automatically generated based on available data. We keep checking multiple sources for additional information. This article gets updated as new details on this earthquake become available.

  1. US Geographic Society (USGS): Earthquake us6000mwfi
  2. European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC): Earthquake 20240505_0000081
  3. Geonames.org: World Cities Database
  4. Google Maps: Static API
  5. Earthquakelist.org: Historic Earthquakes Database

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