Discuss as:

7.6-magnitude earthquake strikes off Philippines

Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET: An earthquake of 7.6 magnitude struck off the Philippines on Friday, destroying roads and bridges and sending people fleeing to higher ground in fear of a tsunami, authorities said.

The quake was centered 91 miles off the town of Guiuan in Samar province at a depth of about 20 miles, The U.S. Geological Survey said.

It was initially recorded as having a magnitude of 7.9, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

Warnings that were in effect for several Pacific islands and Taiwan and Japan were canceled. Watches for several other coastal areas in the region including Hawaii were also later lifted.

The tsunami warnings remained for parts of the Philippines and Indonesia, the center said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties. 

People urged to evacuate to high ground
"Strong earthquake here in Taft, Eastern Samar! And it lasted very long too!" Samar congressman, Ben Evardone, told reporters via text message. 

"We are in a wait and see situation, some bridges and roads were damaged and people panicked and are now on higher ground," he told local radio later.

"If you are anywhere near the coast I recommend that you head to higher ground," Paul Caruso of the USGS told Sky TV by telephone when asked about a threat of a tsunami hitting the coast of the Philippines. 

Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine seismology agency, said residents should get to a 10-meter (30-foot) elevation until the tsunami alert was lifted.

Small waves of about 16 centimeters (6 inches) had hit a southern Philippine island, the  agency said, and warned that bigger ones could follow.

A radio reporter in Leyte province, near Samar, said people had run out of their homes when the quake struck. "It felt like we were being rocked," he said. 

The region has been hit by devastating quakes in the past decade. At least 230,000 people in 13 Indian Ocean countries were killed in a quake and tsunami off Indonesia in 2004.

Last year, an earthquake and tsunami off Japan's northeastern coast killed about 20,000 people and triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years after waves battered a nuclear power station. 

This is a breaking news story. Check back for more updates.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

More world stories from NBC News:

Follow World News from NBCNews.com on Twitter and Facebook