Investigations are underway after a group of motorcyclists sparked a tsunami panic in two Zamboanga del Norte towns.
Thousands of residents of Siocon and Baliguian abandoned their homes and ran for the hills after the baseless warning on Wednesday night.
Today (Friday, December 19) Siocon Mayor Julius Lobrigas has ordered a probe into why the panic was deliberately spread.
Yesterday, farm owner Felipe Ybarsabal told the state-run Philippine News Agency that they fled at 11pm after at least four people on motorcycles rode around residential areas shouting: “There is an incoming tsunami!”
Mr Ybarsabal along with his wife and neighbours jumped into whatever transport was available to flee to higher ground, where they stayed for several hours.
They only returned home after Mr Ybarsabal phoned a relative, who reminded him that tsunamis were always preceded by strong earthquakes, and that none had been reported.
According to Wikipedia, tsunamis are triggered by the “displacement of a substantial volume of water or perturbation of the sea usually attributed to either earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, glacier calvings or more rarely by meteorites and nuclear tests.”
After the townspeople had been warned of the alleged tsunami by the motorcyclists, somebody announced that the seawater level was low — which is a well-known warning sign of an incoming tsunami.
However, nobody thought to check that it happened to be low tide at the time.
As well as in Siocon, residents of the nearby town of Baliguian also fled their homes due to the false alarm.
“The false information just created public disturbance and panic among the constituents of Baliguian,” a local school teacher wrote on her Facebook page. “If you have just seen how the people have evacuated at night that was so dark.”
Mayor Lobrigas said appropriate charges should be filed against those people behind the false alarm.
Both Baliguian and Siocon were severely affected by the onslaught of tropical storm Vinta shortly before Christmas.