At least one person died and several others were injured in the southern Philippines after a strong earthquake struck. Thousands of residents fled their homes in fear and clogged roads as a tsunami warning was issued, according to officials on Sunday.
The U.S. Geological Survey stated that the earthquake on Saturday evening was measured to be 7.6 on the Richter scale and occurred at a depth of 32 kilometers (20 miles). The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially predicted that tsunami waves would hit the southern Philippines, as well as parts of Indonesia, Palau, and Malaysia. However, they later retracted their tsunami warning.
An additional earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6 was reported by the USGS on Sunday, located east of Hinuatan and 56 kilometers (34 miles) deep. No tsunami warning was issued. The Philippine seismological agency identified it as an aftershock.
Late Saturday, Japanese officials in Okinawa prefecture gave out evacuation directives for multiple areas, including the entire coastal region, impacting thousands of individuals.
A woman who was expecting a baby passed away when a concrete wall, measuring 15 feet (4.5 meters), fell on her, her husband, and daughter in their residential area. The ground shook, causing them to run out of their home in Tagum City, located in the province of Davao del Norte. According to Shieldon Isidoro, the disaster-mitigation chief of the city, this incident was reported to The Associated Press.
Isidoro reported that while he was at home, his spouse and child sustained injuries. In addition, two more children and their guardians, in a state of panic, leapt from a second-story window as their residence trembled. Thankfully, they were unharmed upon landing on a grassy area.
“At first, the swaying was mild. But it rapidly intensified and I struggled to remain on my feet. My fragrant bottles toppled from the table, pictures on my wall swayed, and I could hear people shouting outside: ‘Evacuate, evacuate! It’s an earthquake!’ Isidoro recounted.
Isidoro expressed concern that his house’s roof may collapse on him, but he was even more apprehensive about potential casualties in Tagum, a city with a population of approximately 300,000. He had been leading earthquake drills in the city, which he believed had helped prevent further fatalities and injuries.
According to officials, a Tagum hospital was evacuated and later patients were escorted back after an examination revealed that the building had not sustained significant damage.
According to officials, numerous inhabitants were forced to evacuate their homes for several hours in multiple towns as a precautionary measure against potential earthquake and tsunami hazards. This included areas that had also experienced heavy rainfall overnight.
At a press conference, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr stated that officials were evaluating the effects of the earthquake. Early reports suggest that there were only minor damages, including two damaged bridges and some isolated power outages. Teodoro also mentioned one reported fatality and a small number of injuries.
According to Teresito Bacolcol, the director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, his agency recommended residents living near the epicenter of the undersea quake in Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental provinces to evacuate to higher ground or further inland. This advice was given shortly after the earthquake occurred.
Photographs shared on the Hinatuan town’s Facebook page depict individuals evacuating by foot or using various vehicles, such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, and tricycle taxis, to reach higher ground during the night.
According to officials, numerous villagers who had sought refuge in evacuation centers have now gone back to their residences on Sunday.
After conducting examinations, officials from the civil aviation industry reported that there was minimal harm at multiple airports in the southern region and no interruptions to flight operations.
The Philippines, a country that frequently experiences disasters, is regularly affected by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions because it is situated on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a ring of fault lines around the ocean. Additionally, the group of islands is typically affected by approximately 20 typhoons and storms annually.
This report was contributed to by Mari Yamaguchi, a journalist from the Associated Press.