7.9 magnitude earthquake strikes New Guinea

According to the US Geological Survey, 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.

Preliminary reports said the earthquake, which occurred at 2:30 p.m. local time Sunday (11:30 p.m. Saturday ET) 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 and fatalities were possible.