Philippine typhoon survivors flee false tsunami alert

MANILA (AFP) - About a thousand traumatised survivors of the Philippines' deadliest typhoon fled their homes in one central province following false rumours of a tsunami, civil defence officials said on Sunday.

Officials in the province of Antique were visiting upland villages where people had fled overnight to convince them there was no danger and it was safe to return to their coastal homes, said Broderick Train, the civil defence chief for the province.

"These are people who have been traumatised by their experience with Typhoon (Haiyan). When the false information began spreading yesterday they immediately fled," he said in a telephone interview.

He said the provincial government was trying to convince them to return home as there had been no earthquake to trigger a tsunami.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said it had not recorded any big earthquakes over the weekend and had not issued any tsunami alert.

Train said officials had yet to find out who spread the false alert that triggered evacuations in the small coastal towns of Laua-an, Culasi, Sebaste, Barbaza, Tibiao and Pandan.

"I would say there are about a thousand people who fled their homes overnight," Train said.

Leck Benitez, spokesman for Antique's Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said it was likely criminals had spread the rumours by mobile telephone text messages.

"When people leave their homes they become targets for break-ins," Benitez added.

Benitez said the towns where evacuations were reported had been hard-hit by Haiyan, which struck the central Philippines on Nov 8 with winds of up to 315kmh.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the typhoon, along with tsunami-like storm surges that struck the central islands of Samar and Leyte, killed at least 5,632 people, with 1,759 others still missing.

This made Haiyan the deadliest typhoon in Philippine history, and one of the worst natural disasters on record.