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FILE PHOTO: Damage from an earthquake in the Philippines in July 2022. Alamy Stock Photo
Philippines

Philippines warns of 'destructive tsunami' after magnitude 7.6 quake

A destructive tsunami is expected with “life threatening” wave heights.

A POWERFUL EARTHQUAKE, with a magnitude of 7.6, struck the southern Philippines today, the US Geological Survey said, as local authorities warned of a “destructive tsunami” and urged people in coastal areas to flee.

The quake struck at a depth of 32 kilometres at 10:37 pm local time (2:37 pm Irish Time) about 21 kilometres northeast of Hinatuan municipality in Surigao del Sur province on Mindanao island, the USGS said.

“Destructive tsunami is expected with life threatening wave heights,” the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said on X, formerly Twitter.

It said waves of more than one metre above the normal tides were expected to hit the coast and advised people in Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental provinces to “immediately evacuate” to higher ground or further inland.

Owners of boats were told to secure their vessels and move away from the shore.

Powerful aftershocks of up to magnitude 6.4 continued to shake the region into early Sunday after the first quake hit, USGS said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage but Hinatuan police Sergeant Joseph Lambo said the quake was “very strong”.

“Appliances fell off the shelves at the police office and two TV sets were broken. The motorcycles parked outside also tumbled down,” Lambo told AFP.

“Right now we don’t have reports of damage or casualties but people are evacuating because of the tsunami alert.”

Lambo said the 45,000 residents in the municipality had been ordered to leave their homes and many were going on foot or in vehicles to higher ground.

‘We were all panicking’

Dyl Constantino, 25, was on Siargao Island, northeast of Mindanao, when the quake struck.

“It was the longest and strongest earthquake I’ve ever experienced, probably lasted for about four minutes,” Constantino told AFP.

“We’re used to earthquakes here but this one was different because the doors were really shaking and so we were all panicking.”

Anna Quinones, a disaster official in Davao City, said they were monitoring the coast for the tsunami.

“It is high tide still and we are not noticing anything unusual,” she said.

Bethanie Valledor, 24, was asleep at a resort in Bislig city, about 20 kilometres southwest of Hinatuan, when the quake jolted her awake.

“I felt like the room we’re staying in would be destroyed,” Valledor told AFP.

“Our place is very near the sea. The resort owner asked us to evacuate immediately. Honestly, I was screaming. I panicked.

The quake comes nearly two weeks after a 6.7 magnitude quake shook Mindanao, killing at least nine people, shaking buildings and causing part of the ceiling of a shopping mall to collapse.

Quakes are a daily occurrence in the Philippines, which sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of intense seismic as well as volcanic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

Most are too weak to be felt by humans but strong and destructive quakes come at random with no technology available to predict when and where they will happen.

© AFP 2023

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