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Islander on quake: 'The bed started shaking'

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Niue
Pacific Ocean
Earthquake

(CNN) -- The small island of Niue, just 100 square miles in size [260 square kilometers], was one of the islands rocked by a powerful magnitude 7.9 undersea earthquake in the South Pacific Ocean on Wednesday.

Niue has a population of about 2,100, and many of those people were jolted from their beds when the quake hit.

CNN science and technology producer Marsha Walton contacted Frank Sioneholo, publisher of the online Niue Business News, who was in Mutalau City, on Niue's northern coast.

WALTON: What was the time locally when the quake hit? What were you doing and what did you feel?

SIONEHOLO: The quake hit around 4:27 a.m. I was sleeping on the bed and was awakened when the bed started shaking, which lasted for about 10-15 seconds. I just woke up and started observing things around me moving up and down. I was frightened when the shaking went on for awhile and never stopped.

WALTON: Are quakes in your area common? Do most people have an emergency plan in case of a subsequent tsunami?

SIONEHOLO: Quakes are not common; we have been used to some short tremors but this one was quite long. I do not know whether there is an emergency plan for earthquakes or tsunamis, but there is an emergency plan for cyclones. That was tested in 2004 when Cyclone Heta struck Niue. A red alert was issued half an hour before the cyclone hit, which is not acceptable.

WALTON: Any damage that you are aware of? Have you talked to friends and neighbors since the quake?

SIONEHOLO: No damage reported so far. I've already talked to friends and neighbors and they are OK.

WALTON: What city are you in? How far from the coast?

SIONEHOLO: Mutalau City, a kilometer [six-tenths of a mile] away from the coast. Niue is quite lucky to have a unique geographic makeup of an uplifted coral atoll. The cliffs around the coast, which is around 20 to 60 meters [65 to 196 feet] above sea level, is called the lower terrace. We also have the upper terrace, which is 20 to 40 meters [65 to 131 feet] above the lower terrace. So we are quite high and safe from the sea.

WALTON: Anything else you can tell us?

SIONEHOLO: The weather this morning is fine and the sea is calm. The talk at work is about the quake. Our Legislative Assembly is due to go into another session this morning.

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