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Tsunami warning raised after Magnitude 7.6 earthquake off Samar

August 31, 2012 8:59pm
(Updated 11 p.m.) An earthquake of magnitude 7.6 hit 139 km east of Sulangan, Samar, 8:45 p.m. Philippine Time, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) immediately issued a tsunami warning for the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea and other islands in the Pacific including Hawaii.

The USGS initially reported the earthquake at magnitude 7.9, but downgraded it to 7.6 after reassessing its data at around 10 p.m.

Tsunami warning still holds for PHL, Indonesia, Palau

At the around the same time, NOAA also took down its tsunami warnings for Japan, Taiwan, Russia, and other countries in the Pacific Ocean. However, warnings are still up for countries near the epicenter: the Philippines, Indonesia, and Palau.

Philippine authorities reiterated NOAA's warning and called for affected provinces to prepare for possible evacuation.

East PHL seaboards urged to repare for evacuation

In an earlier live interview on GMA News' "State of the Nation," Phivolcs director Renato Solidum issued a Tsunami Alert Warning level 3 – indicating waves of one meter in height or more – and called for possible evacuation of people in affected areas.

"Dahil malakas ang lindol, nag-raise na ang Phivolcs ng tsunami warning and possible evacuation warning sa Samar, Southern Leyte, Surigao del Norte, and other provinces facing the Pacific Ocean," he said.

"They should take precaution, because posibleng one meter or more ang taas [ng alon]," he warned.

"Ang ating eastern seabord, sa may Samar at Leyte, sa may Philippine Trench nangyari ang lindol kaya from Cagayan Valley to Surigao del Norte ay kailangan mag-ingat ang mga tao," said NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos.

No casualties were reported as of 9:30 p.m., Ramos noted.

The earthquake was felt as far as Baguio, where it registered at magnitude 2, Ramos said.

Samar residents conduct preemptive evacuation

As of 11 p.m., small waves had already reportedly hit the southern Philippines, according to Phivolcs, but the agency warned that bigger waves could arrive soon.

Solidum said that waves of about 16 cm (6 inches) had hit the Surigao area on the southern island of Mindanao, but warned that second and third waves could be much higher.

The residents of Samar Island —the closest land mass to the earthquake epicenter— have been ordered to stand by through the night and prepare for possible evacuation.

Several communities have already ordered preemptive evacuations. No casualties from the earthquake have been reported as of 10 p.m.

"Nag-order na ako ng emergency operation… ng evacuation. Pinalikas na namin lahat ng nasa baba… dinala na namin sa matataas na areas," Mayor Neil Alvarez of Oras, Eastern Samar, told GMA News Online in a phone interview.
 
"Wala pang reported casualties. Mabuti naman. Pero on-going ang… [evacuation] operations," Alvarez added.

“People are already moving to higher ground,” said Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone in a text message to GMA News.


Earthquake epicenter and aftermath

The USGS summary placed the epicenter of the earthquake 33km under the sea just off the coast of Samar:


View Larger Map

In July 1990, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck northern and central Luzon, heavily affecting Dagupan, Baguio City, La Union, and Cabanatuan. The USGS recorded 1,621 casualties from that quake. — with Reuters, AFP/Amanda Lago/Anna Mae Lamentillo/TJ Dimacali/VS, GMA News



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