MANILA — A strong earthquake struck an island province in the eastern Philippines, damaging some structures, knocking out power in surrounding towns and prompting a tsunami warning. The civil defense office said there are no confirmed deaths.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the 7.6 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter on the Pacific Ocean floor just off the coast of eastern Samar Province. The Pacific tsunami warning office issued an alert across the western and central Pacific immediately after it struck and then cancelled it about two and a half hours later.  

The head of the civil defense office told a local radio station several towns in the six affected provinces have lost power and roads and bridges were damaged.
Earthquake USGS map

The national seismology agency “strongly advised” people in coastal areas to seek higher ground after the quake. Seismology office director Renato Solidum said the office issued an “alert level three.”

“At alert level 3 we are on the conservative side, at least a meter or so a tsunami can happen," said Solidum. "At this height possible effects can happen on people near the water so therefore as a precautionary measure we recommended an immediate evacuation.”

The Philippine Red Cross is preparing to go to the hardest hit areas, but Red Cross spokeswoman Gwendolyn Pang said there may be problems in getting to the region.

“It’s a very far-flung, poor area and it’s very far from airports… so we are now planning, how are we going to go there in case, we know how but… we have to check also the access,” said Pang.  

Pang said the Red Cross is also sending out word to residents to get to evacuation centers and stay there.

The seismology office said a wave rose as high as 16 centimeters in Surigao province in the tsunami warning area, but the threat of a major tsunami has appeared to pass.  

The civil defense office is strongly advising against people returning to their homes in the evening with power being out.