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2 dead after magnitude 7.6 quake rocks southern Philippines

AFP . Manila
03 Dec 2023 17:37:23 | Update: 03 Dec 2023 17:37:23
2 dead after magnitude 7.6 quake rocks southern Philippines
Residents and medical personnel evacuate patients from inside a hospital after a 7.6 earthequake struck Butuan City, in southern island of Mindanao late December 2, 2023 — AFP Photo

At least two people were killed and several were injured after a magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook the southern Philippines late Saturday, triggering tsunami warnings that were later lifted.

The powerful quake struck off the coast of Mindanao island at a depth of 32 kilometres (20 miles) and was followed by four major aftershocks of magnitudes exceeding 6.0 over several hours into Sunday, the US Geological Survey said.

The initial quake triggered tsunami warnings across the Pacific region and sent residents along the east coast of Mindanao fleeing buildings, evacuating a hospital and seeking higher ground.

There have been no reports of major damage to buildings or infrastructure so far, disaster officials told AFP on Sunday.

A 30-year-old man died in Bislig City, in Surigao del Sur province, when a wall inside his house collapsed on top of him, said local disaster official Pacifica Pedraverde. 

Some roads in the city were cracked during the earthquake and aftershocks but vehicles could still drive on them, she said.

A pregnant woman was killed in Tagum city in Davao del Norte province, the national disaster agency said, without providing details. 

Two people suffered minor injuries in Tandag City, about 100 kilometres north of Bislig, after they were hit by falling debris, an official said.

The national disaster agency recorded a total of four people injured, but it was not clear if that tally included the two in Tandag. 

Disaster officials in Hinatuan municipality, which was about 21 kilometres from the epicentre, said they were inspecting villages for damage and casualties.

The Philippine seismology institute initially warned of a "destructive tsunami" that was expected to cause "life threatening" waves.

It issued a bulletin at 3:23am local time that the highest waves generated by the seismic activity were 64 centimetres (25 inches) tall on Mawes Island but also said the tsunami warning had ended.

Small swells were reported as far away as Japan's eastern Pacific coast, where a tsunami warning was also briefly in effect. Palau, a western Pacific archipelago located about 900 kilometres (560 miles) off Mindanao, reported no impact.

The earthquake came nearly two weeks after a 6.7 magnitude quake hit Mindanao, killing at least nine people, shaking buildings and causing part of a shopping mall ceiling to collapse. 

Quakes are a daily occurrence in the Philippines, which sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic and volcanic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

Most are too weak to be felt by humans but strong and destructive quakes come at random with no technology available to predict when and where they will happen.