Philippines rocked by earthquake measuring 7.9 on Richter scale


A 7.6 earthquake hit off the Philippine coast today, triggering a tsunami warning for the eastern part of the archipelago and Indonesia, US seismologists said.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a depth of 34 kilometres and hit at 8:47 pm (1817 IST), 139 kilometres east of the city of Sulangan on Samar island.

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, at 1905 IST.

It would then be due to hit the Philippines at 1908 IST. The times passed without immediate reports of damage.

"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.

"Waves could reach one metre 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 1800 IST, later than the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre's alert.

"So far we have not received any reports of a tsunami hitting anywhere in Indonesia," Suharjono, technical chief of Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, who goes by one name.

"We have heard about the Pacific warning and have alerted our disaster management agency in the Papua and Maluku provinces to be prepared for a possible evacuation in casethere is a tsunami."

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