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Quake hits ocean floor near Australia
Updated: 2004-12-27 21:39

An extremely powerful earthquake struck the ocean floor between Australia and Antarctica early Friday, causing buildings to shake hundreds of miles away on the island of Tasmania, authorities said. There were no reports of damage or injuries.

The magnitude 8.1 quake hit 305 miles north of Macquarie Island just before 2 a.m., according to the United States Geological Survey's Web site. An earthquake of magnitude 8 is capable of doing tremendous damage if it occurs in an urban region.

The earthquake was felt throughout Australia's southern island state of Tasmania, said Cvetan Sinadinovski of Geoscience Australia.

Buildings in parts of the state rattled for up to 15 seconds, but no one was injured and structures were in no danger of collapsing, he said.

"If it happened underneath a population center in Australia, this would probably have destroyed a whole city," Sinadinovski said.

A magnitude 8 quake rocked Japan's northern island of Hokkaido on Sept. 25, 2003, injuring nearly 600 people. An 8.4 magnitude tremor that stuck off the coast of Peru on June 23, 2001, killed 74.

Macquarie Island is the exposed crest of the undersea Macquarie Ridge, which is caused by the meeting of two tectonic plates and is the only place where rock from the Earth's mantle four miles below the ocean floor is being pushed above sea level, according to the Australian Antarctic Division's Web site.

Sinadinovski said large earthquakes are common in the Macquarie Ridge region, occurring every year or two, but Friday's was the strongest quake there since 1924.

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