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UPDATE: 32 dead, power down as magnitude-7.2 quake hits central Philippine island
Publication Date : 15-10-2013
The death toll in the powerful 7.2- magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol and other parts of Visayas and Mindanao in central and southern Philippines on Tuesday morning rose to 32, authorities said.
Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, likened the energy released by the quake to “32 Hiroshima bombs”. The earthquake toppled buildings and historic churches and sending terrified residents into deadly stampedes.
Fifteen of the fatalities were in Cebu, the country’s second most important city, civil defence office spokesman Major Reynaldo Balido told reporters.
There were 33 from injured from the quake, with 19 from Mandaue City; six in Toledo and eight in Pinamungahan village, all from Cebu. Balido said the casualties were expected to rise as reports come in.
The quake was recorded from two to five kilometres southeast of Carmen town at 8:12am, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and the United States Geological Service reported.
Phivolcs said the earthquake had a depth of 33 kilometres.
The tremor lasted for a minute and triggered a blackout.
“Compared to the 2010 Haiti earthquake that had a magnitude of 7.0, this one was slightly stronger,” Solidum said.
He noted that this was the strongest earthquake to hit the Philippines this year.
Solidum also said that the fault that moved was the East Bohol Fault, but clarified no other faults in the Philippines were affected from the earth’s movement.
Hardest hit were Tagbilaran City in Bohol and nearby Cebu province.
The last powerful quake to hit Bohol was in February 1990, with a magnitude of 6.8. It also damaged several churches in southern Bohol, as well as churches and bridges.
Local officials in Cebu and Bohol urged the people to stay outdoors since the aftershocks continued.
They were also checking reports of damage on buildings and infrastructure due to the earthquake, the strongest to hit Cebu since Feb 6, 2012 when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit Cebu and Negros islands.
Photos from Cebu broadcast on TV stations showed a fallen concrete 2-storey building, and reports said an 8-month-old baby and a second person were pulled out alive.
“It’s fortunate that many offices and schools are closed due to the holiday,” said Jade Ponce, the Cebu mayor’s assistant.
He said that patients were evacuated to basketball courts and other open spaces “but we’ll move them back as soon as the buildings are declared safe”.
Cebu province, about 570 kilometers south of Manila, has a population of more than 2.6 million people. Nearby Bohol has 1.2 million people and is popular among foreigners because of its beach and island resorts.
A 17th-century stone church in Loboc town, southwest of Carmen, crumbled to pieces, with nearly half of it reduced to rubble. Other old churches dating from the Spanish colonial period, which are common in the central region, also reported damage, including the bell tower of the centuries-old Santo Nino Church in Cebu, which collapsed.
Tuesday is a national holiday for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, and that may have reduced casualties. The earthquake also was deep below the surface, unlike the 6.9-magnitude temblor last year in waters near Negros Island, also in the central Philippines, that killed nearly 100 people.
Regional military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said he recalled soldiers from the holiday furlough to respond to the quake. He said it damaged the pier in Tagbilaran and caused some cracks at Cebu’s international airport but that navy ships and air force planes could use alternative ports to help out.
Passenger flights were put on hold until officials check runways and buildings for damage.
Earthquakes are common in the Philippines, which lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”. -- With reports from agencies, Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Carmel Matus, Carine Asutilla and Chito O. Aragon, Inqurier Visayas