Tsunami warning issued after 7.6 magnitude earthquake off the Philippines

Tsunami Expected In Philippines, Japan After 7.5 Magnitude Earthquake
Tsunami Expected In Philippines, Japan After 7.5 Magnitude Earthquake - Getty Images

A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6 hit the southern Philippine coast on Saturday night, triggering a tsunami warning and forcing many villagers to evacuate their homes.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake occurred at 10:37 p.m. local time, at a depth of 32 kilometers (20 miles). No major damage or casualties were immediately reported.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially warned of possible tsunami waves affecting the southern Philippines and parts of Indonesia, Palau and Malaysia, but later lifted the alert.

Japan also issued evacuation orders for some coastal areas in Okinawa Prefecture, affecting thousands of residents.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, headed by Teresito Bacolcol, urged people living along the coast of southern Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental provinces to evacuate to higher ground or move inland.

The institute also advised boat owners in harbors, estuaries or shallow coastal waters off the two provinces to secure their vessels and leave the waterfront. Boats at sea should remain in deep waters until further notice, it said.

Bacolcol said a 1-meter (3.2-foot) tsunami could hit the coast, but the wave height could vary depending on the shape of the shoreline.

Authorities and the government’s disaster-response agency said villagers in Hinatuan town and nearby areas in Surigao del Sur province fled their homes around midnight. Photos on Hinatuan government’s Facebook page showed people escaping to higher ground on foot or by various vehicles.

Bacolcol said his agency had not received any reports of a tsunami hitting the coast more than three hours after the quake, but said monitoring would continue.

The Philippines is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, as it lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a zone of seismic activity and volcanic eruptions. The country also faces about 20 typhoons and storms every year.