By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Agence France-Presse
First Posted 08:46:00 02/28/2010

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) The first tsunami waves as high as one meter are expected to reach the country’s coastal provinces facing the Pacific Ocean between 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Sunday morning.

In an advisory, Phivolcs raised the tsunami alert in the country to Alert Level 2 as a result of the magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile, as the agency advised people to stay away from shorelines facing the Pacific. However, authorities said no forced evacuation in place.

“The coastal areas facing the Pacific Ocean may experience tsunami of up to one meter, possibly lower,” Phivolcs head Renato Solidum said over nationwide radio.

“The first waves will arrive between 1 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. (0500 GMT and 0630 GMT),” he said.

Solidum said the waves will likely continue for several hours in the eastern seaboard of the Philippines, and those living along the shorelines are advised to seek higher ground or move further inland.

He said small fishing vessels should not venture out to sea, and for the public not to go to the beaches to watch the swells.

The Phivolcs advisory also warned 19 provinces on the eastern coast of the country to watch out for tsumani waves.

These provinces are Cagayan, Batanes, Sorsogon, Northern Samar, Ilocos Norte, Eastern Samar, Isabela, Leyte, Quezon, Southern Leyte, Aurora, Surigao Del Norte, Camarines Norte, Surigao Del Sur, Camarines Sur, Davao Oriental, Albay, Davao Del Sur and Catanduanes.

Solidum earlier told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that wave height does not really matter in tsunamis but the volume of water coming in.

Also, Phivolcs also said the public must not go to the coast to watch the tsunami.

“People whose houses are very near coastal areas facing the Pacific Ocean are strongly advised to go farther inland,” the agency said.

It added: “Boats in harbors, estuaries, or shallow coastal water should return to shore. Secure your boat and move away from the waterfront. Boats already at sea during this period should stay offshore in deep waters until further advised.”

While issuing the alert, Solidum noted that the tsunami that hit Hawaii after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake in the Pacific Ocean near the coast of Chile Saturday did not cause any major damage there.

Other government officials also said there was no need to panic, and that no forced evacuation was in effect.

“We are advising everyone to stay away from the shoreline. But there is no need to panic,” said Glen Rabonza, executive director of the Office of Civil Defense, in Manila.

The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands with many people living in communities close to the sea.

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