An earthquake of 7.6 magnitude has struck off the Philippines damaging roads and bridges and sending people fleeing to higher ground in fear of a tsunami.

The quake was centred off the east coast, 146km (91 miles) off the town of Guiuan in Samar province at a depth of about 32km (20 miles), the US Geological Survey said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a warning for much of the region, but cancelled it about two hours later.

However, Philippine authorities maintained their tsunami warning after ordering residents to get out of coastal areas immediately.

Large parts of Samar and Leyte province had no power or internet connections, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The tsunami warning was initially issued for the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea and other islands in the Pacific including the US state of Hawaii.

Small waves of about 16cm had hit a southern Philippine island, the seismology agency said, and warned that bigger ones could follow.

The region has been hit by two huge 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.