A MAGNITUDE 7.2 earthquake rocked Sarangani, Davao Occidental at 4:23 a.m. on Saturday morning.
Tectonic in origin, it was felt 53 kilometers southwest of Sarangani town and damaged several buildings. Two people were injured as residents panicked after a tsunami warning was issued earlier.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), recorded 36 aftershocks right after the tremor. Of these number, Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum Jr. said the strongest at 4.1-magnitude was recorded at 7 a.m. on Saturday.
Phivolcs issued a tsunami alert before the earthquake but it was cancelled an hour later.
It also issued a Sea Level Disturbance advisory, alerting affected areas of strong currents and the rapid rise and fall of sea waters.
“Based on tsunami wave models and early tide gauge records of tsunami in the Philippine Sea, coastal areas in Philippine provinces fronting the Celebes Sea are expected to experience wave heights of less than one meter above the normal tide levels,” Phivolcs explained.
The first of these waves arrived sometime between 4:28 a.m. and 5:23 a.m. on Saturday.
However, the initial wave may not be the largest and more waves were expected several hours on, Phivolcs said.
The public was advised to stay away from the beach and coasts fronting the Celebes Sea in Sarangani, Davao Occidental, South Cotabato, Davao Oriental and Sultan Kudarat.
As of 8 a.m. Saturday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said it has raised its alert status to Red.
Other aftershocks recorded were:
* Intensity 5, felt in General Santos City, Koronadal City, Santa Maria, Jose Abad Santos, Don Marcelino, and Balot Island in Davao Occidental; Polomolok and Tupi in South Cotabato; Alabel, Malapatan and Glan in Sarangani; and Palimbag in Sultan Kudarat.
* Intensity 4 in the cities of Davao, Cotabato and Zamboanga.
* Intensity 3 in Cagayan de Oro City and Intensity 2 in Kidapawan City.
In General Santos City, residents were jolted from their beds and ran to the streets as the tremor shook the area, leaving cracks in a hospital, two government buildings and a port, as well as triggering the collapse of at least one house and causing a brief power outage.
“The floor appeared to rise first before swaying violently from side to side. Then the lights went out,” Adrian Morallas who was at work at the civil defence office in General Santos city at the time of the quake, said.
“I ducked and took cover under my desk in line with our disaster training, although it was very difficult to do that in the dark with the ground shaking,” he added.
Appeal for calm
Meanwhile, Malacañang appealed to the public to stay calm but vigilant following the strong earthquake.
In a statement, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said, “We ask our people, particularly residents of Sarangani, to stay calm and yet remain vigilant and alert. We will be giving updates as more information becomes available,” Abella said.
“Our disaster officials are now conducting rapid damage assessment and we assure those affected that immediate assistance will be provided,” he added.
with reports from AFP FRANCIS EARL A. CUETO and CATHERINE S. VALENTE