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7.6 quake hits eastern Philippines

Publication Date : 01-09-2012

 

A minute-long 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit off the Philippine’s coast on Friday, triggering a tsunami warning for the eastern part of the archipelago and Indonesia, US seismologists said.

Philippine authorities said the quake shook the eastern Philippines but as of press time, there were no reports of extensive damage.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a depth of 34 kilometres and hit at 8:47pm (1247 GMT), 139 km east of the city of Sulangan on Samar island. The epicentre was located at 93 km east of Sulangan in the resort town of Guian in Samar.

But a report sent by Inquirer Mindanao said a grandmother died when she tried to get her five-year-old grandchild out of their house which was hit by a landslide at the time the earthquake struck in Barangay Kauswagan, Cagayan de Oro City, on Friday night. Emelinda Ubalde, 54, died before reaching the hospital for treatment, but her grandchild was hurt.

Marketgoers lining up to buy goods at a fiesta fair along the boulevard in Surigao province scampered for safety when news of the earthquake spread.

Police Senior Insp. Diomedes Cuadra said initial reports did not indicate any casualty or injury, though there were unconfirmed reports of damage to property .

But the quake did scare local residents, especially patients in hospitals, who were seen going out on the streets. Some even carrying their oxygen tanks with them.

The USGS had initially reported the quake as having a magnitude of 7.9, but revised it to 7.6.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning centre said in a bulletin any wave generated by the quake would be expected to hit Indonesia first.

Potential for destruction

“An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicentre within minutes to hours,” the centre said.

The head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), Renato Solidum, said people living along the east coast of the country had been ordered to evacuate.

“It is a shallow quake and could trigger a tsunami so we have raised an alert,” Solidum said on local radio.

President Aquino last night instructed Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to ensure the orderly evacuation of residents in areas affected by the earthquake.

“The President has instructed Secretary Gazmin as head of the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) to monitor the tsunami, in coordination with Phivolcs, and to ensure that the affected PDRRMCs to inform the local government officials and to further ensure that the evacuation in the affected areas be peaceful and orderly,” Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesperson, said in a statement.

Precaution in coastal areas

“Waves could reach one meter high and as a precaution those living in coastal areas facing the sea should now evacuate and go to higher areas.”

Another Phivolcs official said any potential wave may not hit until after 1230 GMT, later than the Pacific Tsunami Warning centre’s alert.

Tsunami warnings had also initially been raised for Japan, Taiwan and several Pacific islands, but they were quickly lifted.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning centre issued the updated warning, which also kept a number of areas of the Pacific on watch for a potential tsunami following the quake. The tsunami warning was lifted later around 11pm on Friday.

“So far there are no casualties reported, but it was felt from the north to the south of the Philippines, on the eastern seaboard,” Benito Ramos, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director, told AFP.

Tsunami alert level 3

Tsunami alert Level 3 which means immediate evacuation was raised in Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Surigao del Norte and Surigao Sur, Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said.

Ramos said first responders had been deployed to the concerned areas.

“Strong tremors were felt up to the Cagayan Valley even, but there were no reports yet of toppled structures,” he told the Inquirer by phone.

As of 9:30 p.m. Ramos said the agency had received no reports of casualties and damages. But he warned people living on the coastlines and seaboards from Cagayan to Surigao del Norte to be on the alert.

The strong earthquake sent people in the Visayas region out of their homes.

The earthquake was felt in Iloilo City, many towns of Iloilo province, Capiz and Negros Occidental.

Many residents also went out of their homes and vehicles stopped in the streets.

21 coastal towns

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said most of the 597 villages within his district were located in the 21 coastal towns facing the Pacific.

The congressman said he was about to board his car when he experienced tremors that lasted for more than a minute. “Grabe lakas ng earthquake dito sa Taft, Eastern Samar! Sobrang tagal pa! Brownout na!” he said in a text message at 8:51pm.

Evardone later described in a phone interview how he saw street posts and vehicles moving, adding that there was also a brownout. The quake cut off power supply in the area, but it was restored after about five minutes, he said.

Felt in Bicol provinces

The earthquake was also felt in Bicol provinces, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said. The earthquake of tectonic origin was felt in Legazpi City at intensity 5 , and in Sorsogon, also at intensity 5.

Phivolcs instruments recorded the earthquake at about 8:47 p.m. with a magnitude of 7.7 with epicentre in Guiuan, Eastern Samar.

Ed Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist in Legazpi, said instruments located the earthquake at 10.83 degrees north and 126.71.63 degrees east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar with depth of 10 kilometres.

Northern Samar Gov. Paul Daza has ordered the evacuation of residents along the coastal areas.

Nestor Burgos, Rachel Arnaiz, Jani Arnaiz and Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas; TJ Burgonio, Christian V. Esguerra and DJ Yap in Manila, Danni Adorador and Cai Panlilio, Inquirer Mindanao; Mar Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon, Reuters


 

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