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Thousands flee Philippine coastlines on tsunami alert

world Updated: Feb 28, 2010 08:42 IST
Philippine provinces

Thousands living in Philippine provinces facing the Pacific Ocean evacuated their homes early Sunday hours before a tsunami from a major quake near Chile was expected to arrive, officials said.

Officials said the evacuations were orderly, with authorities saying that the waves were not expected to be higher than one metre.

In the popular surfing destination of Siargao on the eastern coast of Mindanao island to the south, about 10,000 people have relocated to safer areas, said Office of the Civil Defence regional director Blanche Gobenciong.

"Many of them walked to fields further inland, while others sought higher ground," provincial police chief Gilbert Cruz said.

In the province of Albay meanwhile, authorities said they had informed over 47,000 families living along the coast to move about five kilometres away from the shore just hours after the 8.8 magnitude quake struck off the coast of Chile on Saturday.

Some had started moving on Sunday morning, although it appeared there was no immediate danger, provincial governor Joey Salceda said.

"The most important thing is that for people not to panic. We have prepared all our local government units since last night," Salceda said over DZBB radio in Manila.

Renato Solidum, chief of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said the first waves would hit the coasts of 19 provinces on the archipelago's eastern seaboard Sunday afternoon.

"The coastal areas facing the Pacific Ocean may experience tsunami of up to one metre, possibly lower," Solidum said.

"The first waves will arrive between 1.00 pm and 2.30 pm (0500 GMT and 0630 GMT)," he said.

Solidum said the waves will likely continue for several hours, and advised small fishing vessels not to venture out to sea, and for the public not to go to the beaches to watch the swells.

While issuing the alert, Solidum noted that the tsunami that hit Hawaii after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake in the Pacific Ocean near the coast of Chile Saturday did not cause any major damage there.

Other government officials said that people should remain calm and no forced evacuation was in effect.

"We are advising everyone to stay away from the shoreline. But there is no need to panic," said Glen Rabonza, executive director of the Office of Civil Defence, in Manila.

The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands with many people living in communities close to the sea.