03/12/2011 - THE most critical hours passed last night with no unusually large waves spotted near Philippine shores, after a huge earthquake and a tsunami hit Japan yesterday.
But government warn-ed coastal residents the first waves may not always be the largest and “these may continue for hours,” so they should avoid the coast and head inland.
Seismologists warned that waves of up to three feet could hit between 5:00 and 7:00 last night in 19 of the country’s 79 provinces.
President Benigno Aquino III took an earlier flight than scheduled from Singapore, to oversee government’s efforts to deal with the tsunami scare.
“We haven’t received reports that a Filipino died in the earthquake,” Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manolo Lopez said in a television interview.
An estimated 300,000 Filipinos work in Japan.
Both countries sit on the Pacific Ring of Fire where continental plates meet, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.
About 20 earthquakes hit the Philippines every day but only a few are felt. The worst such disaster to hit the country was in August 1976, when a magnitude 7.9 tremor killed more than 5,000 people in the coastal communities in Sulu, Cotabato and
Responding to reports from Japan yesterday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council issued this bulletin: “People whose houses are very near coastal areas facing the Pacific Ocean are strongly advised to go farther inland.”
Nineteen provinces made the list, with the Batanes Islands, Cagayan, Ilocos Norte and Isabela in the north expected to be the first hit.
Tsunami alert level 2 was also raised over the following provinces: Quezon, Aurora, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Catanduanes, Sorsogon, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Leyte, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Davao Oriental and Davao del Sur.
People living between 10 and 40 meters from the shoreline must leave immediately, Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said.
The Coast Guard warned ships and small seacraft not to sail until the alert level is lifted.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development alerted its regional directors to prepare supplies and personnel for possible relief efforts.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is closely monitoring situation of Filipinos in affected areas in Japan.
The tsunami damaged properties along its path in Japan’s northeastern coast, with dozens of cars, ships and some buildings being washed ashore.
“The Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the entire Filipino nation join me in expressing both our most profound condolences and sympathies, as well as our solidarity with Your Excellency and the people of Japan, as you strive to cope with this tragedy whose devastation, it pains us, is still unfolding,” President Aquino
said in a letter to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
The Embassy in Tokyo said they were exerting efforts to get in touch with Philippine Honorary Consulates in Sapporo, Morioka and Nagoya, and members of the Filipino community for initial reports of any injury or casualty.
In Cebu City, officials said the City Government may send a delegation of doctors and nurses to Japan.
Acting Mayor Joy Augustus Young and Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district) said they will organize a rescue team that will be composed of at least 20 doctors and nurses.
“I want to make clear that they (Japan) have not yet asked us to help but we want to make an effort that if they need us, we are here, we are ready to help,” said Osmeña.
“I will personally lead the delegation myself because I’m very grateful for the support they have given us. They made Cebu globally competitive. Cebu was their favorite so we should make an effort,” he said.
Among other projects, the Japanese Government helped the City with the South Road Properties and the Cebu South Coastal Road Project.
In an emergency news conference yesterday, Young asked the public, particularly those living near the coastline, to temporarily evacuate until the tsunami alert is lifted.
Young said they have placed the Cebu City Disaster Coordinating Council on alert to help neighboring provinces that might be hit by a tsunami. (AFP) with Princes Dawn Felicitas