One dead, dozens injured as quake hits central Philippines

CATAINGAN (Philippines) • At least one person was killed and 43 injured when a 6.6-magnitude earthquake shook the central Philippines yesterday, sending residents fleeing from their homes and damaging buildings and roads.

The shallow quake struck south-east of Masbate Island in the Bicol region at 8.03am, the United States Geological Survey said.

"There are a lot of damaged houses," said Staff Sergeant Antonio Clemente in Cataingan, a town of about 50,000 people on the impoverished island several kilometres west of the epicentre in the Samar Sea. "It was really strong."

Local radio station reporter Christopher Decamon said he saw emergency workers pull the body of a man from the rubble of a three-storey house on the outskirts of Cataingan. The man's wife escaped unharmed.

"Our people were broadcasting at the time, but they just ran out of the building," Mr Decamon told AFP.

Police confirmed the man's death.

Sixteen people were injured in the town. In nearby Palanas, at least 27 were injured after being hit by falling objects or when their motorbikes crashed as the ground moved, Mr Chris Adique, a municipal disaster officer, told DZBB radio.

None were in a critical condition, he added.

Search and rescue efforts were still under way in the region.

The quake struck as the archipelago battles surging numbers of coronavirus infections, with more than 164,000 cases and movement restrictions that vary across the country.

"These natural disasters are a part of our lives and we always recover," said Mr Harry Roque, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte. "People should not worry about getting relief assistance. (It) will be provided."

Captain Alvin Guerina, Palanas police chief, told AFP that several patients, including a pregnant woman about to go into labour, were evacuated from a hospital as a precaution in case of aftershocks.

 

So far, at least 24 aftershocks have been recorded by the Philippine seismology office, with the strongest registering at a magnitude of 3.8.

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A video posted on Facebook and verified by AFP showed light damage to a food market in Cataingan.

Overturned buckets and small fish were scattered on the ground, and chunks of cement had fallen from a pillar. People stood outside on the street.

The Philippines is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through South-east Asia and across the Pacific basin.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2020, with the headline 'One dead, dozens injured as quake hits central Philippines'. Print Edition | Subscribe