Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Huge Waves Inundate Philippines' Western Coast, Thousands Flee

Big waves set off by a storm battered provinces along the Philippines' western coast overnight, sending more than 5,000 people fleeing, some falsely thinking there was a tsunami, officials said Wednesday. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the onslaught of waves that sporadically battered coastal villages from the country's mountainous north to the southern island of Jolo from late Tuesday to early Wednesday. The waves also created flash floods by pushing sea water into low-lying areas. Along the western coast of the main northern Luzon island, which was jolted by a magnitude-6 earthquake about noon Tuesday, more than 5,400 people fled to safety and government emergency shelters after the waves swamped their communities, said Armando Duque, head of the regional Office of Civil Defense.In the coastal town of Bolinao in northern Pangasinan province, many villagers feared that a tsunami struck because of the earthquake, but authorities immediately explained through local radio stations that the waves were generated by stormy weather out at sea, Duque said. Many were puzzled by the waves because Typhoon Mitag, which lashed the northern Philippines on Monday, had weakened into a storm then blew out of the country toward southern Japan, causing weather to improve by Tuesday. "Many thought that there may have been a tsunami so authorities had to tell them that the waves were caused by the weather disturbances,'' Duque told The Associated Press by telephone. The waves and flooding eased early Wednesday, prompting many to return home, he said.