Philippines hunts for survivors after quake levels shopping centre

Rescuers inspect a damaged market in the quake-hit town of Padada, Davao Del Sur province, Philippines on Dec 15, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA (REUTERS) - Rescue teams in the southern Philippines searched for signs of life on Monday (Dec 16) in a collapsed shopping centre after a powerful earthquake that killed at least three people and wounded dozens more.

Disaster response officials said five people were believed to be trapped in the rubble of the Southern Trade Shopping Centre in Padada, a town on the island of Mindanao located about 20km from the epicentre of Sunday's quake.

Rescuers were using chainsaws and thermal imaging equipment to look for survivors, but said there was little hope of finding anyone alive.

"It's very distressing. There's a very slim chance of finding survivors," regional disaster official Christopher Tan told CNN Philippines.

A six-year-old girl was killed when the wall of her house collapsed on her during the 6.8-magnitude quake, the fifth to hit the region since October. Rescuers also recovered the bodies of two women during a night disrupted by several aftershocks.

A further 31 people were injured, said Mr Francis Irag, regional information officer.

Television footage early on Monday showed fire and rescue personnel using torches to search the outside of the shopping centre, a small two-storey building, in darkness. Roads were blocked by rubble and mangled metal.

There were widespread power outages and minor damage to more than 300 homes and eight government buildings, according to the disaster agency's report late on Sunday.

President Rodrigo Duterte and his family were in Davao City when the quake struck some 61km away, but were not harmed.

The Philippines sits on the geologically active Pacific Ring of Fire and experiences frequent tremors.

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