A magnitude 6.9 earthquake off the coast of the southern Philippines on Monday morning killed three people, authorities said, in a region already hit by a series of strong earthquakes over the weekend. The quake struck just before 04 a.m. local time (20 p.m. Sunday), at a depth of 30 km, some 72 km northeast of the municipality of Hinatuan, located on the island of Mindanao, according to the American Geophysical Institute (USGS).
Shortly thereafter, a magnitude 5.4 aftershock was recorded by the USGS in the area, 28 kilometers east of Aras-asan, at a depth of 43 kilometers. The tremors come after a 6.6-magnitude earthquake on Sunday, preceded the day before by a 7.6-magnitude quake, accompanied by several large aftershocks (greater than 6 magnitude) in the same region that killed at least two people and injured four.
So far, we are terrified because there are many aftershocks," Alex Arana, head of the disaster management agency in Surigao del Sur province, told DZBB television. As of Sunday evening, more than 30,000 families were sheltering in evacuation centres across the province, he said.
Josephine Ungab, 54, and her three children spent Saturday night at an evacuation centre in Hinatuan, about 21 kilometres from the epicentre of the initial quake. They returned home the next day but were back at the shelter on Monday after another strong tremor. "It's like our house is going to be destroyed by the earthquake and the waves," she said.
Walls and roads cracked while more than 35 homes were destroyed and the roof of an outdoor field collapsed in their community. "The quake was brief, it lasted about six seconds, but the tremors were pretty strong," said Allan Luna, disaster manager in the municipality of Cagwait, about <> kilometers from the epicenter of Monday's quake.
The other night, people panicked. But this morning, because they had already suffered a similar earthquake, they calmly left their homes and stayed outside for about an hour," he added. Saturday's tsunami was recorded at a depth of 32 km about 21 km northeast of Hinatuan and was followed by a tsunami warning, which was later lifted.
Two people died in Surigao del Sur province, Alex Arana said — one from falling debris and the other from a wall collapsing on him. A pregnant woman was killed in the town of Tagum in Davao del Norte province, according to the National Disaster Agency. Eight people were injured in the province.
A 6.7 magnitude earthquake had already struck the region on 17 November, killing at least nine people. There are tremors on a daily basis in the Philippines, which is located on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an area of intense seismic and volcanic activity that stretches from Japan to the Pacific basin through Southeast Asia.