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Major aftershocks jolt Philippines after magnitude 7.6 quake

MANILA, Philippines — A powerful magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck the southern Philippines on Saturday, the US Geological Survey reported, followed by four major aftershocks that sent residents fleeing from coastal areas amid fears of a tsunami.

The initial quake struck off the coast of the country at a depth of 32 kilometers (20 miles) at 10:37 p.m. local time (1437 GMT) about 21 kilometers northeast of Hinatuan municipality on Mindanao island, the USGS said.

Early on Sunday, over the span of several hours, four powerful aftershocks of magnitudes 6.4, 6.2, 6.1 and 6.0 rumbled through the region, the USGS said. 

The initial quake triggered tsunami warnings -- which were later downgraded -- across the Pacific region and sent residents in northeast Mindanao fleeing buildings, evacuating a hospital and seeking higher ground. 

"Destructive tsunami is expected with life threatening wave heights," the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said on X, formerly Twitter.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii also issued an alert but later posted that the danger had passed.

"There is no longer a tsunami threat from this earthquake," it said in a message.

The Philippines seismology institute said in a bulletin at 3:23 am (1923 GMT) local time that the highest waves generated by the seismic activity were .64 meters (25 inches) tall on Mawes Island, but that the tsunami warning had ended.

Small swells were reported as far as Japan's eastern Pacific coast, where a tsunami warning was also briefly in effect. Palau, a western Pacific archipelago some 900 kilometres (560 miles) off Mindanao, reported no impact.

Hinatuan police Sergeant Joseph Lambo said the quake was "very strong" but that there were no reports of casualties or major property damage.

"Appliances fell off the shelves at the police office and two TV sets were broken. The motorcycles parked outside also tumbled down," Lambo told AFP.

"Right now we don't have reports of damage or casualties but people are evacuating because of the tsunami alert."

Lambo said the 45,000 residents in the municipality had been ordered to leave their homes and many were going on foot or in vehicles to higher ground.