The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has now lifted its tsunami alert after a 7.6 magnitude undersea earthquake hit east-coast villages.
At the ready for the worst were members of HERO, the Ham Emergency Radio Operations, as the strongest earthquake in more than two decades occurred in that country. It killed one person in a collapsing house, knocked out power in several towns, caused minimal damage but there was panic about a tsunami and evacuation did occur.
The prolonged services of HERO seemed not to be required this time although its members were quickly on the emergency channels of 144.740 MHz and 7.095 MHz last Friday night.
However Phivolcs recorded only a small 20 cm rise in wave height and not the life-threatening tsunami that can be expected to occur with an earthquake of that size. Similar warnings were issued in neighbouring countries from Indonesia to Japan, and for Pacific islands as far away as the Northern Marianas.
Almost 200 aftershocks were felt from the big quake in the areas of Visayas and Mindanao late on Friday, but officials are now facilitating their orderly return of evacuees. Disaster officials describe the earthquake as a wake-up call to further earthquakes in the so-called Pacific-rim of fire.
In February this year a 6.8 quake killed 51 and left more than 60 people missing in the Negros and Cebu regions. An earthquake measuring 7.9 killed thousands in the area of Luzon on July 16, 1990. The country has suffered recent severe floods, including 80 per cent of Manila under water recently due to heavy seasonal monsoon rains.
(Jim Linton VK3PC, Chairman IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee)