(CNN) – A magnitude 7.9 earthquake has struck west of Papua New Guinea.
The quake was 153 kilometers (95.5 miles) deep and centered 40 kilometers (24 miles) west of the town of Panguna, according to the US Geological Survey.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has advised that tsunami waves of up to a meter above the tide level are possible for some coasts of Papua New Guinea and nearby Solomon Islands.
Preliminary reports said the earthquake, which occurred at 2:30 p.m. local time Sunday January 22 (11:30 p.m. Saturday ET and 11.30 a.m. Sunday in Thailand) measured 8.0 but USGS later downgraded its magnitude.
The USGS estimates that 72,000 people would have experienced severe shaking as a result of the quake.
The predominant structure of homes in the area meant they were vulnerable to earthquakes, it said, and fatalities were possible.
Top: A tsunami in its full strength. Photo: Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com) via Rawstory.com
SOURCE: CNN’s Joe Sutton and Susannah Cullinane with CNN’s Derek Van Dam contributing to this report