Tsunami warning issued after Philippines earthquake

by Kim Boateng Posted on December 29th, 2018

A powerful earthquake has struck the Philippines. The 6.9-magnitude tremor hit the southern island of Mindanao on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

Hazardous tsunami waves are possible on parts of the coasts of the Philippines and Indonesia after an earthquake of 6.9 magnitude hit the southern Philippines.

There are no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the earthquake on Saturday centred off the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

It hit 193 km east of the Philippine city of General Santos, at a depth of 60 km, the US Geological Survey said.

“Hazardous tsunami waves from this earthquake are possible within 300 km of the epicentre along the coasts of Indonesia and the Philippines,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

There was no tsunami threat to the US state of Hawaii, it said.

The USGS initially said the magnitude of the quake was 7.2 but later downgraded it to 6.9.

Indonesia has been struck by two serious tsunami this year.

The first followed a 7.5 magnitude quake on the west coast of Sulawesi island in September. More than 2,000 people were killed.

The second tsunami struck a week ago, on Saturday evening, when part of a volcanic island collapsed in the Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra islands, generating tsunami waves that killed more than 400 people.

The Philippines and Indonesia are both on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a horse-shoe shaped band of volcanoes and fault lines circling the edges of the Pacific Ocean.

Indonesia’s tsunami buoy warning system has not been operational since 2012, said an official on Monday (Dec 24), two days after a tsunami struck coastal areas around the Sunda Strait between the islands of Sumatra and Java.

“Vandalism, lack of funds, technical faults have caused the current absence of the tsunami buoy system,” said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho in a series of tweets.

There was no tsunami advance warning system on the night the tsunami struck, said Mr Nugroho.

He said the system had to be developed again to ensure that Indonesia had a tsunami early warning system which would be “triggered by undersea landslides and volcanic eruptions”.

“The absence of this system caused the failure to detect the tsunami in advance,” he added.

Mr Nugroho added that Indonesia does not yet have a tsunami advance warning system that can detect undersea landslide and undersea volcanic eruption.

He cited examples of previous earthquakes which caused undersea landslides and triggered a tsunami, including the recent Palu tsunami-quake.

Currently, the country only has an advance warning system that is triggered by earthquakes.

It was first established in 2008, a few years after a 9.3-magnitude earthquake below the seabed triggered a wave that struck Banda Aceh within 15 minutes. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed 168,000 people in Indonesia alone, and left nearly 250,000 dead around the region.

Mr Nugroho added: “127 volcanoes or 13 per cent of the world’s volcanoes are in Indonesia. A number of them are undersea and are small islands that when erupt can caused tsunami.”

He said this would serve as a challenge for government agencies, as well as institutes of higher learning, to develop such systems.

Other natural disasters, including landslides, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, dry weather and tornadoes also needed advanced warning systems, added Mr Nugroho.

“These will relay information to the public before disaster strikes.”

More than 200 people have died with hundreds more injured from the tsunami that struck the islands of Sumatra and Java on Saturday night, according to Indonesian authorities.

Experts warn that another tsunami could strike Indonesia as volcanic activity of Anak Krakatoa continues.

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