Strong earthquake off Philippines triggers tsunami alerts across Japan

A strong earthquake with a preliminary 6.9 magnitude struck off the coast of the Philippines island of Mindanao on Saturday, triggering tsunami warnings across Japan and Asia. Image by U.S. Geological Survey

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- An earthquake with a preliminary 6.9 magnitude struck off the southern coast of the Philippines on Saturday, triggering a wave of tsunami warnings across Japan and Asia.

The epicenter of the quake was pinpointed off the eastern coast of the island of Mindanao. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor occurred at a depth of about 20 miles beneath the surface of the Pacific.

So far there have been no reports of injuries or damage in Japan or Philippines due to the quake or tsunami, but officials emphasized that the situation was developing due to the massive wave.

Emergency alerts and tsunami warnings were issued in many Japanese prefectures -- including Chiba, Shizuoka, and Kagoshima -- while Philippines coastal regions such as Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental were also bracing for a tsunami to hit in the coming hours, according to Japan's Meteorological Agency in Tokyo.

Large swaths of Japan were on high alert for a giant wall of water that could reach 3 feet high or more before slamming into the region of Miyako Island and surrounding areas in Okinawa early Sunday.

Forecasters were monitoring the situation around the clock, while issuing alerts in the Izu island chain near Tokyo and the Ogasawara Islands in the Pacific Ocean, south of the Japanese capital.

Several other Japanese prefectures were in the path of the giant wave, including Aichi, Mie, Wakayama, Tokushima, Kochi, and Miyazaki, with authorities warning the public to stay clear of the coast until alerts are lifted.

Residents across a large swath of the region have been ordered to evacuate and seek higher ground before the tsunami slams into land.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology recorded the earthquake at magnitude 6.9 and warned that a "destructive tsunami is expected with life threatening wave heights."