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Philippines Hit By Earthquake of 7.6 Magnitude. Here’s What to Know

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Updated: | Originally published:

A powerful earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.6 struck the Philippines on Saturday, Dec. 2, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council reported on Sunday evening that one person had died and four were injured, although it was still verifying both numbers, and a total of 529 families were impacted. Defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro said earlier that a pregnant woman was the person who died, the BBC reported.

The Office of Civil Defense told TIME in an email that the figures mentioned by Teodoro “are initial reports, but still subject to validation.” TIME has reached out to other national and local branches of government for more information. 

The quake hit the southern province of Mindanao at 10:37 p.m. local time and triggered a tsunami warning. People in the coastal areas of Davao Oriental and Surigao Del Sur were “strongly advised to immediately evacuate to higher grounds or move farther inland.” Japan also issued a tsunami warning for certain coastal areas, NHK reported.

PHIVOLCS (the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology) recorded tsunamis with a maximum wave height of two feet (0.64 meters) in certain areas, with the last wave recorded just before 3 a.m. The agency canceled the warning by 3:30 a.m. 

Estimates of the quake’s strength ranged, with PHIVOLCS initially giving it a magnitude of 6.9, then upgrading it to a 7.4.

Hundreds of aftershocks occurred Sunday, with another 6.6 magnitude quake hitting Sunday evening, according to PHIVOLCS.

The strong earthquake prompted patients and medical staff to evacuate a hospital in Butuan City late on Saturday, AFP reported. 

The municipal government of Hinatuan, 13 miles (21 km) from the quake’s epicenter, posted pictures on its Facebook page of chaotic evacuation scenes. While some residents fled to higher ground, others took shelter in large, industrial buildings. Pictures of the damage showed collapsed homes and houses filled with debris.

Philippines President Bongbong Marcos said in a social media post Sunday morning that the government was continuing to provide assistance to earthquake victims. Residents who had evacuated were allowed to their homes Sunday, Reuters reported. 

Local government areas in Davao Oriental and Surigao Del Sur province canceled school starting Monday as teams checked the safety of the buildings and other public facilities, the governments posted on their Facebook pages Sunday. 

The Philippines was hit by an earthquake of 6.8 magnitude on Nov. 17

Earthquakes are common in the Philippines. The country lies on the "Ring of Fire," a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean, prone to seismic activity.

This latest quake comes after a 6.8 magnitude undersea earthquake rocked the same region of the Philippines on Nov. 17. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRMMC)’s latest report on that quake put the death toll at 11, with 37 people injured. More than 6,500 houses and more than 500 other infrastructure sites, including schools and health facilities, were reported damaged. A total of 20,000 families were affected. 

Local police told TIME that three people had died in General Santos City. Corporal Christopher Laraño, of General Santos City Police Station 4, said in a phone call at around 1 a.m. on Nov. 18 that his police station "had two victims of the earthquake.” He said a married couple—believed to be an 18-year-old female and a 26-year-old male—died when a wall fell on them.

Speaking from Police Station 6, Corporal Peter Paul Malangan told TIME that one person had been found dead in a mall in General Santos City at around 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 18. Others were injured, Malangan said.

Sarangani’s government confirmed three deaths in the province—two in Glan and one in Malapatan—in an official report posted to Facebook on Nov. 19. The government reported 61 people had been injured in Glan: 56 with minor injuries, four with serious wounds and one pregnant person, who was referred to another city for treatment. Four people were admitted to the hospital in Malapatan.

Authorities said more than 1,500 households were impacted, with houses damaged or livelihoods disrupted, across the province.

On Nov. 19, the government of General Santos City, via its official Facebook page, said 541 individuals were brought to nearby hospitals. 509 people were treated as outpatients, while 32 were admitted. The announcement said that families of earthquake victims will be given financial assistance and hospital bills will be covered by the government.

Initial videos of the earthquake, shared by a local news outlet on Nov. 17, showed people forced to evacuate from buildings and huddling on the floor of a shopping mall, amid thunderous shakes in General Santos City.

Further footage showed the quake causing signs and antennas on the top of a 17-story building to shake. The building's employees were safely evacuated, local media shared. The earthquake was also reported to have cracked and shut down the Old Buayan Bridge, which joins General Santos and Sarangani.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, the Philippine Red Cross shared via Facebook that it was “providing first aid and medical attention to students who collapsed."

The Philippines' Office of Civil Defense said in an email to TIME on Nov. 17 that the earthquake had resulted in power outages in General Santos, Lebak and Sultan Kudarat, in addition to damaged houses in Sarangani and an affected school. The office said it had sent emergency alerts and warnings to six areas. By 6:30 p.m. local time, power had been restored in some parts of General Santos City and the Province of Sarangani, the local government posted on its Facebook page.

With additional reporting from Chad de Guzman.

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