Tsunami alert lifted after strong undersea earthquake reported off the southern Philippines

  • Philippine government advised people to stay away from beaches after magnitude 6.9 quake struck about 190km east of General Santos in Mindanao
  • Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre initially said ‘hazardous tsunami waves’ were possible within 300km along the coasts of Indonesia and Philippines
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 12:34pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 9:46pm

A powerful undersea earthquake struck off the southern Philippines on Saturday, prompting people to scramble out of shopping malls and buildings and authorities to warn villagers to stay away from beaches in case of a tsunami.

No casualties or damage were reported hours after the quake struck before noon, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre lifted its warning for a potential tsunami that it had said could hit coastal areas of the southern Philippines and Indonesia.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the quake was detected at a depth of 59 kilometres and a magnitude of 7.2 about 162 kilometres off Davao Oriental province. Several aftershocks, including one with a magnitude of 5.6, were later felt by residents but no major damage was reported, officials said.

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The US Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 6.9.

Soon after the quake struck, Renato Solidum, who heads the quake-monitoring institute, said a major tsunami was unlikely given the quake’s depth but his agency advised villagers to avoid beaches in Davao Oriental province and outlying coastal regions for about two hours after the quake hit around noon as a precaution.

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The quake was felt in several southern provinces and cities, including in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown in Davao city and in nearby Tagum City. Shoppers, including children yelling in fear, rushed out of a five-story mall and many occupants abandoned a 26-floor condominium in a commercial district as the ground shook.

Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said the quake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami affecting that country, which is still reeling after a December 22 tsunami caused by an eruption on a volcanic island killed more than 400 people.

The Philippines and Indonesia lie along the so-called Ring of Fire, a seismically active arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

Indonesian media also said there were no reports of damage.

Indonesia has been struck by two serious tsunami this year.

The first followed a 7.5 magnitude quake on the west coast of Sulawesi island in September. More than 2,000 people were killed.

The second tsunami struck a week ago, on Saturday evening, when part of a volcanic island collapsed in the Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra islands, generating tsunami waves that killed more than 400 people.

The Philippines and Indonesia are both on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a horseshoe shaped band of volcanoes and fault lines circling the edges of the Pacific Ocean.

Additional reporting by agencies