MANILA (7th UPDATE) – A major 7.6 earthquake hit the sea area east of the Philippines on Friday and a tsunami warning was issued for the archipelago, Indonesia, Taiwan and Japan, US seismologists said.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake had a depth of 34 kilometers (21 miles) and hit at 8:47 p.m. (1247 GMT) some 139 kilometers east of the city of Sulangan, eastern Samar.
A tsunami warning was also issued for Papua New Guinea and Guam, and a tsunami watch was in effect for the Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands and Nauru, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) said in a bulletin.
The warning center said any wave generated by the quake would be expected to hit Indonesia first, at 1335 GMT.
It would then be due to hit the Philippines at 1338 GMT or 9:38 p.m. local time.
"An earthquake of this size has the potential to generate a destructive tsunami that can strike coastlines in the region near the epicenter within minutes to hours," the center said.
The PTWC later lifted its tsunami warnings for the Philippines and Indonesia. It had earlier cancelled similar warnings for Japan, Taiwan and several Pacific islands.
Initial data from the USGS said the earthquake was a magnitude 7.9, but later downgraded it to a 7.6.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), meanwhile, said it was a magnitude 7.7 earthquake.
The earthquake’s epicenter was recorded at the Philippine trench, east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar and hit at 8:47 p.m.
According to Phivolcs, the following intensities were felt in provinces near the quake’s epicenter:
Intensity VII - Guiuan, Oras, Sulat, Borongan City, Eastern Samar; Tacloban City
Intensity VI - Siargao, Surigao del Norte; Saint Bernard, S. Leyte
Intensity V - Mati City; Compostela; Legaspi City; Iloilo City; Bislig City, Iligan City; Davao City; Cateel Davao Oriental ; Roxas City, Capiz
Intensity IV - Butuan City, Catbalogan City, Cagayan De Oro City; Dipolog City; Manukan, ZN; Polanco, ZN; Tagum, Davao del N., Digos City;Dumaguete
City; Bacolod City
Intensity III - Cotabato City, Mambajao, Camiguin, General Santos City; Dao, Capiz, Dingle, Iloilo; Kidapawan City; Jaro, Iloilo; Daet, Cam. Norte;
Binalbagan Neg. Occ.; Sindanga, Zamboanga del Norte
Intensity II - Marawi City, Sipalay City, Hinigaran, La Carlota La Granja, Neg. Occ., Cebu City
Phivolcs raised a tsunami alert level 3 minutes after the earthquake to warn residents living in the coastal areas of a possible tsunami.
Residents in coastal areas of northern Samar, eastern Samar, Leyte, southern Leyte, Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Sur were advised to evacuate their homes as a precautionary measure.
Phivolcs said waves as high as 19 centimeters hit Surigao at around 10 p.m.
Waves caused by the quake also hit the shores of Davao and Siargao but Phivolcs said these were not life-threatening.
The tsunami alert level 3 was lifted at 12:10 a.m. Saturday and residents were allowed to return to their homes.
However, residents are still warned of aftershocks that may occur.
A spokesperson of the Department of Transportation and Communication, Atty. Nicasio Conti, said that although the tsunami alert has been lifted, sea travel may still be risky.
He advised fishermen from eastern Samar, Leyte and Surigao to monitor the waves and be vigilant.
No casualties were reported from the small waves caused by the earthquake.
A 50-year-old woman was killed by a landslide in Barangay Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro (CDO), the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said.
In its initial report, the NDRRMC identified the victim as Emilita Ubalde.
A certain Adrian Ubalde, 5, was also injured in the incident.
The quake also triggered a flashflood in Barangay Tablon, causing partial damage to 5 homes.
The quake also caused cracks to several buildings in Surigao del Sur and Davao.
No other casualties were reported. -- With reports from AFP; Dennis Datu, dzMM