Strong Offshore Quake Kills 1 in the Philippines

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A magnitude 7.6 earthquake strikes off the coast of the Philippines on Friday, August 31, 2012. (Photo Credit: CNN)

A magnitude 7.6 earthquake strikes off the coast of the Philippines on Friday, August 31, 2012. (Photo Credit: CNN)

By Joe Sterling, CNN

MANILA, Philippines (CNN) — A major earthquake offshore of the Philippines sent people scrambling toward higher ground, generated a small tsunami and killed at least one person Friday, authorities said.

The 7.6-magnitude quake struck Friday evening, with its epicenter about 65 miles southeast of the coastal town of Guiuan, in the Philippine province of Eastern Samar, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was about 20 miles deep.

Authorities warned of possible tsunami waves in a vast arc of the Pacific, but the warnings were soon canceled and the only tsunami recorded was about an inch high at Legaspi, in the eastern Philippines, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

The quake triggered a landslide that killed a 50-year-old man and hurt a 5-year-old boy in the city of Cagayan de Oro, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said.

“The quake occurred amid a strong rain, so the earth shook loose and there was a landslide,” the country’s civil defense chief, Benito Ramos, said, The Manila Times reported.

The quake was centered in the Marianas Trench in the western Pacific Ocean and was felt in the country’s east, said Aimee Menguilla, a spokeswoman for the council.

Ed Serrano, the head of security at the Marco Polo Hotel in the city of Davao, about 250 miles south of Guiuan, said he felt the ground shake.

“The hotel guests were panicking,” he said. “Most of them went outside.”

Not long after the quake, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology urged people in eastern coastal stretches to evacuate.

Marie Elairon, working at the front desk at Hotel Dona Vicenta in the city of Borongan said some people headed to mountainous areas and others took shelter in a church.

Dan Molina, a hotel employee in Guiuan, said, “We are advised to go up,” referring to higher ground.

Paul Earle, a U.S. Geological Survey seismologist, said the quake was “fairly far off the coast, so it likely won’t cause severe shaking damage.” But, he said, an earthquake “this large could cause a lot of damage” if it were inland.

The U.S. Geological Survey initially said the quake had a magnitude of 7.9 but later revised that figure.

— Journalist Maria Ressa reported from Manila; CNN’s Zarifmo Aslamshoyeva, Aliza Kassim, Ben Brumfield and Mariano Castillo reported from Atlanta; and CNN’s Joe Sterling reported and wrote this story in Atlanta