Deadly quake rocks southern Philippines

SURIGAO CITY (Philippines) • Rescuers dug through rubble yesterday looking for survivors, after a powerful earthquake struck the southern Philippines, killing at least six people and sending thousands fleeing for safety.

Residents of Surigao City in Mindanao island spent the night huddled in fear as aftershocks rocked the area, following the 6.5-magnitude quake which struck on Friday night.

Provincial disaster management officer Ramon Gotinga said most of the casualties died due to falling objects. But one elderly man was buried in his home when the upper floor collapsed, and rescue teams were unable to save him despite digging throughout the night.

Another 80-year-old woman died of a heart attack, said Mr Gotinga. At least 126 people were injured, 15 of them seriously.

The quake damaged many buildings - including the two-storey Gaisano mall, one of the city's largest structures - and shattered windows, sending sharp shards and heavy rubble onto the streets.

One bridge collapsed and two others were damaged. The quake also cracked the city airport's runway, forcing flights to be diverted, the civil defence office said.

"I thought it was the end of the world. The cement on the roads was cracking open," resident Carlos Canseco told ABS-CBN television.

Thousands of residents fled their homes, with many running towards higher ground, fearing that a tsunami would hit the coastal city of more than 152,000 people.

Regional civil defence chief Rosauro Arnel Gonzales said several houses collapsed, and search-and-rescue teams had been dispatched.

The disaster also knocked out both power and water services in Surigao City and surrounding areas.

The authorities said they expect power to be restored by today but added that it might take as long as three days for the water supply to return.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 12, 2017, with the headline 'Deadly quake rocks southern Philippines'. Print Edition | Subscribe