Philippine quake leaves 43 dead
Updated: 2012-02-07 08:24
MANILA, the Philippines - A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of the central Philippines on Monday, killing at least 43 people and causing widespread panic, officials said.
The powerful quake hit in a narrow strait between the heavily populated island provinces of Negros and Cebu, causing buildings to collapse, cracking roads and bridges, and shutting down the power supply.
In Cebu city, a popular tourist destination and city of 2.3 million, hotel guests scrambled to higher floors as unfounded rumors that a huge tsunami was bearing down spread by text message.
At least 29 were killed by landslides while 10 others were crushed by collapsing buildings in the mountainous town of Guihulngan in Negros, said regional military official Colonel Francisco Patrimonio.
There was also an undetermined number of wounded, he added.
"Some private homes collapsed along with our courthouse and parts of the public market. We got people out of the buildings, but we could not evacuate the homes," Police Chief Senior Inspector Alvin Futalan said.
Four other people were killed in other parts of Negros which also suffered widespread power outages and cracked roads and bridges, hampering rescue efforts, Patrimonio told reporters.
"Looting is now rampant in Guihulngan which forced us to commit (more troops) with the Philippine national police," the colonel added.
Civil defense chief Benito Ramos said the violent shaking of buildings in Cebu city - 50 kilometers from the epicenter - led to broken windows and cracks on some walls even if no high rises sustained major damage.
Local residents said there was panic in the country's second-biggest city, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or major damage there.
A grade-six pupil died after being plucked out from a collapsed chapel wall while a 9-year-old girl was killed when the concrete wall of a school collapsed, officials said.
A three-story building caved in and some seaside cottages were destroyed by waves in La Libertad, Negros Oriental, near the epicenter of the quake 5 km off the shore of Tayasan town and at a depth of 10 km, according to local calculations.
The US Geological Survey had measured the quake at magnitude-6.7 and at a depth of 20 km.
The volcanology and seismology institute lifted a tsunami alert. Some roads, bridges and houses sustained cracks, but major roads remained passable.
"While the threat of immediate danger appears to have passed, we urge the people in affected areas to remain watchful and calm, and to cooperate with the authorities," a presidential spokesman said.
Television footage showed people scurrying out of buildings, residents converging in open spaces and frightened school children in tears.
"I have advised our people to return to their homes and stay calm. I appeal to our president for help. We're just recovering from Typhoon Sendong and now this earthquake," Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo said in a television interview.
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