"It was massive, absolutely massive".
The USGS said the quake initially caused a tsunami threat in Hawaii, about 3,800 miles away.
The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said tsunami waves of up to 1 meter (3.3 feet) were possible along coastal areas up to 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the epicenter, including Papua New Guinea and the almost Solomon Islands. Other countries could see very small tsunami waves.
The tsunami alert has been canceled, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
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There were no initial reports of serious damage but the full picture may not become clear until daylight. There are no sea level gauges near the epicenter, so it's unknown if a local tsunami was generated.
In February a year ago, a 7.5 magnitude natural disaster in Papua New Guinea killed 150 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.
A magnitude 7.5 quake in February 2018 in the nation's central region killed at least 125 people and forced another 35,000 from their homes.
The scale of that disaster did not become apparent for days due to PNG's poor communications and infrastructure.