CENTRAL Visayas was excluded from a list of areas under a tsunami alert, but provincial and city police directors were ordered to watch out for “unusual waves.”

The order came after the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center sea level monitoring stations confirmed the possible risk of a tsunami following the magnitude 8.8 earthquake that hit Chile past 2 p.m. Saturday, Philippine time.

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The National Disaster Coordinating Council assured there was no evacuation order in effect. But text messages that warned of tsunamis drove residents away from their homes in Mati, Davao Oriental and Tandag, Surigao del Sur and onto higher ground.

In Cebu, the Coast Guard did not stop any seafaring vessels from traveling. The Office of Civil Defense 7 said they had no advisory to instruct the public to stay away from the shorelines.

“We should not be worried about tsunamis here because we are inland,” OCD 7 spokesperson Neil Sanchez said. Still, he said there is no harm in being prepared.

“If we notice a sudden change in the tide, it’s time to seek higher ground,” he advised. A sudden low tide may be an indicator of an approaching tsunami.

The tsunami alert level 2 warning affected the areas of Batanes, Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, Isabela, Quezon, Aurora, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Catanduanes, Sorsogon, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental.

Disaster councils in these areas were told to prepare for possible evacuation.

The risk was highest between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. yesterday, said an official of the Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs).

But Rolando Montañez, science research officer of Philvolcs in Mactan, Cebu, said that as of 3:15 pm yesterday, their headquarters in Manila cancelled all tsunami alerts around the country.

Hours before the projected arrival period, the Coast Guard’s Central-Eastern Visayas headquarters in Cebu ordered all units to stay alert, especially those in Tacloban, Catbalogan and Maasin.

Commander Angelito Gabisan, the headquarters’ spokesperson, said the warning was more pronounced in the coastal towns of Northern Samar, like Allen, a shipping town.

All police stations in Central Visayas were ordered to be on the lookout for unusual waves in their areas of responsibility.

A directive from the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7, which used as reference a memorandum from Camp Crame, urged all units to inform everyone concerned in their area to avoid going to coastlines to watch the tsunami.

Residents very near coastal areas and facing the Pacific Ocean were advised to go inland. Boats in harbors, estuaries or shallow coastal water were advised to return to

shore and move away from the waterfront. Those at sea were warned to stay off-shore, in deep water, until further advised.

The devastating earthquake in Chile also sent a signal to government to be more aggressive in preparing for earthquakes and related events.

Deputy Presidential Spokesmen Gary Olivar and Ricardo Saludo assured that contingency measures are in place.

Administration presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro proposed a more massive campaign on such disasters. Teodoro headed the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) during his stint as defense secretary.

“The NDCC should conduct a massive information drive. Whether or not something will happen, they should reassure our countrymen of the current status,” Teodoro told reporters in Baguio.

“You cannot foretell a tsunami, so media should adequately inform people about it and its possible devastation. For every six hours, there should be an advisory,” Teodoro added.

“If we don’t give adequate advance warning now, it will be hard because the people will not believe that there is really danger,” Teodoro said. (With Sunnex)