A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.6 struck Saturday off the southern Philippine coast, prompting many villagers to flee their homes in panic around midnight after Philippine authorities issued a tsunami warning.
The quake struck at 10:37 p.m. at a depth of 32 kilometers (20 miles), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of major damage or casualties.
“Based on all available data ... the tsunami threat from this earthquake has now passed,” it said. “Minor sea level fluctuations may occur in some coastal areas.”
The quake was at a depth of 63 km, according to EMSC. A magnitude 6.4 aftershock later shook the southern Philippines, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The Philippines experiences regular earthquakes and volcanic eruptions due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of seismic faults around the ocean.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially said that based on the magnitude and location, it expected tsunami waves to hit the southern Philippines and parts of Indonesia, Palau and Malaysia. But the centre later dropped its tsunami warning.
In Japan, authorities issued evacuation orders in various parts of Okinawa Prefecture, including for the entire coastal area, affecting thousands of people.
‘Longest and strongest earthquake I’ve ever experienced’
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.
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.