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Magnitude 6.9 quake latest to rattle southern Philippines

By Ara Eugenio and Cecil Morella, AFP Published Dec 04, 2023 10:38 am

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck off the coast of the southern Philippines early Monday, Dec. 4, the United States Geological Survey said, the latest in a slew of strong quakes all concentrated in the same area.

Monday's quake hit just before 4:00 am local time, at a depth of 30 kilometers, some 72 kilometers northeast of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur.

That followed a magnitude 6.6 earthquake on Sunday and a deadly magnitude 7.6 quake Saturday in the same region, which had briefly triggered a tsunami alert. 

At least two people were killed and several were injured after Saturday's quake, authorities said. It was followed by a series of aftershocks of magnitudes exceeding 6.0 through Sunday, according to the USGS.

Hinatuan police Staff Sergeant Joseph Lambo said Sunday evening's quake sent people rushing out of their homes again. 

"They were panicking due to the memory of the previous night's quake," Lambo told AFP.

Residents fetch water next to a destroyed house in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur on Dec. 3, following a 7.6 magnitude earthquake late on Dec. 2. A magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit the southern Philippines on Dec. 3, a day after an even more powerful quake struck in the same region and triggered a tsunami alert that was later lifted. STR / AFP

He said police were checking for any further damage or casualties. 

Saturday's 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.

Collapsed wall kills man

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

A 30-year-old man died in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur, 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, Davao del Norte, the national disaster agency said, without providing details. 

Two people suffered minor injuries from falling debris in Tandag City, about 100 kilometers north of Bislig, an official said.

A man carries a child and belongings as they walk past a destroyed house in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur on Dec.3, following a 7.6 magnitude earthquake late on Dec. 2. STR / AFP

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology initially warned of a "destructive tsunami" after the first quake Saturday, expecting "life-threatening" waves, though none occurred and the warning later 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 kilometers off Mindanao, reported no impact.

The recent temblors came some 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. 

Earthquakes 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. (AFP)