Thousands of people living on the east coast of the Philippines have started to leave their homes and proceed to evacuation centers as they brace for the arrival of a tsunami triggered by a massive earthquake that hit Japan on Friday.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Friday said one-meter high waves are expected to hit the Philippines between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Friday.

19 Philippine provinces are facing the threat of tsunami, in red below:

A total of 19 provinces lying on the eastern part of the country have been placed under Tsunami Alert Level 2, which requires a mandatory evacuation of residents living 10 to 40 meters from the shoreline, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.

According to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, the estimated arrival times of the tsunami's initial waves in the Philippines are as follows:

Palanan, Isabela - 5:55 p.m.
Legaspi, Albay - 6:26 p.m.
Davao - 6:53 p.m.

In its Tsunami Bulletin No. 3 issued at 3:30 p.m. Friday, the Center explained that "A tsunami is a series of waves and the first wave may not be the largest. Tsunami wave heights cannot be predicted and can vary significantly along a coast due to local effects. The time from one tsunami wave to the next can be five minutes to an hour, and the threat can continue for many hours as multiple waves arrive."

"When no major waves are observed for two hours after the estimated time of arrival or damaging waves have not occurred for at least two hours then local authorities can assume the threat is passed," the bulletin said. However, the Center warned that "danger to boats and coastal structures can continue for several hours due to rapid currents."

The tsunami is expected to reach the Philippines, particularly the Batanes Group of Islands, at around 5:00 p.m.

A radio report said that the provincial government of Surigao del Sur in southern Philippines has already began preemptively evacuating around 15,000 residents from four coastal villages.

The report added that fleeing residents were sheltered inside gymnasiums, while others who refuse to leave their residences were advised to stay on the second floor of their homes.

Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol Matugas said people have already been led out of their homes, even as disaster prevention personnel are on stand by for any eventuality.

"Naka-ready na kami lahat. Naka-alerto na po sa Siargao Islands facing the Pacific. They are now all evacuated because of the alert level 2," she said.

Over in Luzon, Quezon Gov. David Suarez also said residents from the provinces 14 coastal villages living in coastal areas have likewise started evacuating from their homes.

Suarez said the level of the water off the province was noticeably lower than the usual as of this posting.

"Parang nag-low tide kaagad. Iyon lang ang napansin ng mga kababayan natin dito,"Suarez told radio dzBB in a separate interview. 

He could estimate the number of people currently being evacuated but said: "Madami ito."

In Sorsogon, news of the tsunami caused panic among local fishermen who rushed to dock their boats and opted not to set out to sea today.

According to a report on GMA News TV's On-Call, government workers in establishments near coastal areas in Bulan, Sorosogon were already asked to go home. 

Successive tsunami waves, ranging from 30 to 70 centimeters high and substantially weakened by the long distance from northeast Japan, finally reached the eastern Philippine coasts between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. Friday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) announced.

In a press briefing at about 11:30 p.m., PHIVOLCS Director Renato Solidum announced that the main danger has passed and all tsunami alerts have been lifted, although still weaker waves might continue coming in until early Saturday morning.

Citing data from the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), which was also posted at the 
Philippine government's main web portal, PHIVOLCS said several distinct waves were detected by at least three gauge stations located in San Vicente, Cagayan province; in Baler, Aurora province; and in Virac, Catanduanes province.

Four waves were detected by the San Vicente, Cagayan station. The first two waves came ashore around 6 p.m. and 6:20 p.m. respectively, both with a height of 60 cm (0.6 meter). These were followed by two more waves at 6:50 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. both measured at 40 cm.

In the Baler, Aurora station, the first wave was detected at around 6:30 p.m. with a height of 40 cm, followed by a 40-cm second wave at 7:10 and a 30-cm third wave at 8 p.m. 

In the Virac, Catanduanes station, the first wave was detected at around 6:30 p.m. with a height of 40 cm, followed by a 60-cm second wave at 7:10 p.m., and a 70-cm third wave at 7:50 p.m. 

Succeeding reports confirmed that similar waves reached the coast of eastern Mindanao late Friday evening.

The PHIVOLCS director reminded the public that although the tsunami alert has been lifted, residents in the affected areas are still advised to avoid coastal areas until Saturday morning.

“The current trend of observed wave heights suggests that the threat of hazardous tsunami has passed. However, the public is still advised to avoid going to the beach and sailing out to the sea. Boat operators at sea should coordinate with the local port authorities to check if unusual currents have stopped for them to be able to dock safely," the 
latest PHIVOLCS bulletin stated.

PHIVOLCS earlier explained that based on information of eight tsunami waves passing through Okinawa earlier Friday afternoon, they expect a similar number of successive waves to hit eastern Philippine shores. Solidum said that they counted some six distinct waves to have reached the country.

The magnitude 8.9 earthquake that devastated northeast Japan has triggered waves as high as 10 meters (30 feet), sweeping away homes, crops and vehicles, and causing fires. Latest reports indicate 200 to 300 bodies have been recovered so far in the hardest-hit areas. 
Evacuation in coastal areas

Meanwhile, the 
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that as of 5:00 pm Friday, a total of 980 families were evacuated from Dinapigue town in Isabela: 800 families from Brgy. Dibolo, 100 from Brgy. Digumased, and 80 from Brgy. Bucal Norte.

Still in Isabela, 150 families from Maconacon and 166 from Palanan were also evacuated. The NDRRMC said residents in low-lying areas were temporarily housed in designated evacuation centers.

In Cagayan province, pre-emptive evacuation was likewise ordered in the coastal villages of Buguey, Sta. Teresita, Aparri, Sta. Ana, Gonzaga, Calayan, Claveria and Ballesteros. All these towns face the Babuyan Channel to the north.

The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC) in Pagudpud town, Ilocos Norte, meanwhile ordered the evacuation of residents from four barangays in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte: Brgys. Pancian, Balaoi, Pasaleng and Poblacion.

Residents of communities along coastal areas in seven municipalities of Aurora have likewise been moved to higher ground, while 150 families in Baler, Aurora were transferred to the Provincial Capitol and Ermita Hill.

In Catanduanes, residents of the coastal villages of Viga, Panganiban, Bagamanoc, Gigmoto, Pandan, Baras, Virac, Bato and San Andres were also evacuated.

Evacuations were conducted as well in the coastal areas in Davao Oriental and Davao del Sur; in General Luna and San Isidro in Siargao Islands; and along the shorelines of Tandag City in Surigao del Sur.

Isabela, Aurora residents to spend night in centers

Residents of Isabela and Aurora were barred from returning to their homes until Saturday morning, as the governors of the two provinces insisted it will be safer for the evacuees to wait and see if the danger has passed.

"Ngayong gabi, doon sila sa evacuation center sa mataas na lugar... Magpaumaga na," Isabela Governor Faustino Dy said on government-run dzRB radio past 9 p.m. (For tonight they will have to stay at the evacuation centers located on higher ground. It will be safer for them to wait until Saturday morning.)

Dy said village watchmen were instructed to secure the residents in the evacuation centers.

In Aurora province, Governor Bella Castillo also appealed to some 2,000 residents brought to evacuation centers to endure the cramped conditions Friday night.

"Hanggang bukas ... No returning home tonight, bukas na lang," Castillo said in a separate interview also on dzRB. (We'll wait until tomorrow. There will be no returning home tonight.)

She said she had instructed the local Social Welfare Department office to prepare food and medicine for the evacuees.

Also, she said she has instructed the local Department of Public Works and Highways to take charge of the evacuees' transportation.

Caraga region

In Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte in the Caraga region of Mindanao, the regional Office of Civil Defense said thousands of residents living near shorelines were forced to evacuate due to the raised tsunami alert. 

Evacuations were conducted in the municipalities of General Luna, San Isidro, Del Carmen, Pilar, all in Siargao Islands, dubbed as the country’s surfing capital.

Governor Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur, which has the longest shoreline facing the Pacific Ocean among provinces in Caraga region, ordered all identified evacuation centers in the entire province to be prepared for residents. 

Hundreds of residents in the coastal towns of Carascal, Cantilan and Lianga in Surigao del Sur also evacuated to safer ground. 

Surigao del Norte Governor Sol Folcadilla Matugas visited evacuation centers in the area and urged evacuees to stay calm.

No damage has been reported so far in the 19 provinces expected to be affected by the tsunami.

All transport facilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police were put on full alert status, based on the latest report from the Philippine Information Agency. 

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