Tsunami alert lifted after powerful earthquake hits Philippines

An earthquake of at least magnitude 7.5 struck Mindanao in the southern Philippines, triggering evacuation orders.

A resident walks past a toppled house caused by an earthquake at Hinatuan town, Surigao del Sur province, southern Philippines on Sunday Dec. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Ivy Marie Mangadlao)

A powerful earthquake that shook the southern Philippines has killed at least one person, as thousands were ordered to evacuate, including in Japan, after tsunami warnings that were later lifted.

The powerful magnitude 7.6 quake struck off the coast of Mindanao island at a depth of 32km (20 miles) and was followed by four major aftershocks of magnitudes exceeding 6.0 over several hours into Sunday, the US Geological Survey said. The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre, however, put the quake’s magnitude at 7.5.

The initial quake that struck at 10:37pm (14:37 GMT) triggered tsunami warnings across the Pacific region and sent residents along the east coast of Mindanao fleeing buildings, evacuating a hospital and seeking higher ground.

In Japan, authorities issued evacuation orders late on Saturday in various parts of Okinawa prefecture, including for the entire coastal area, affecting thousands of people.

A pregnant woman died after she, her husband and her daughter were hit by a 4.5-meter (15-feet) concrete wall that collapsed in their neighbourhood as the ground shook and prompted them to flee from their house in Tagum city in Davao del Norte province, the city’s disaster-mitigation chief, Shieldon Isidoro, told The Associated Press.

Her husband and daughter were injured.

“Initially the swaying was weak. Then it quickly became stronger and I could hardly stand. My perfume bottles fell off a table, pictures on my wall swung and I heard people screaming outside: ‘Get out, get out, earthquake, earthquake!”‘ Isidoro said.

The US Tsunami Warning System initially said there could be waves of up to 3 metres (10 feet) above the usual high tide level along some parts of the Philippine coast. It subsequently said there was no risk of a tsunami.

“Based on all available data, … the tsunami threat from this earthquake has now passed,” it said.

People evacuate following the quake in Surigao del Sur, Philippines [Handout/Hinatuan LGU via Reuters]

Japanese broadcaster NHK said tsunami waves of up to 1 metre (3.2 feet) were expected to reach Japan’s southwest coast by 1:30am on Sunday (16:30 GMT on Saturday).

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said it did not expect significant damage from the tremor itself but warned of aftershocks.

Raymark Gentallan, local police chief of the coastal city of Hinatuan near the earthquake’s epicentre, said power has been knocked out since the quake struck but disaster response teams had not yet monitored any casualties or damage.

“We are evacuating people away from coastal areas,” he told the Reuters news agency.

Many villagers who fled to evacuation centres returned to their homes on Sunday, officials said.

After undertaking inspections, civil aviation officials said there was no major damage in several airports in the south and there was no disruption in flights operations.

Photographs posted on social media by the local administration in Hinatuan, which has a population of about 44,000 people, showed scores of residents and queues of vehicles moving towards higher ground with one large shelter occupied by several dozen people.

Earthquakes are common in the Philippines, which lies on the Ring of Fire, a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is prone to seismic activity.

Source: News Agencies