Three dead after strong quake shakes southern Philippines

The quake occurred at a depth of 10km about 13km east of the city of Surigao.
The quake occurred at a depth of 10km about 13km east of the city of Surigao.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM USGS

MANILA (AFP) – A strong quake shook the southern Philippines on Friday (Feb 10), killing at least three people, toppling buildings and sending panicked residents fleeing their homes, media reports and authorities said. 

The 6.5-magnitude earthquake knocked out power in the city of Surigao, more than 700 kilometres southeast of the capital Manila, and an unknown number of people are believed to be trapped in rubble. 

At least seven people were injured by falling debris in the quake which the US Geological Survey said struck at a depth of 27 kilometres at 10pm. 

The Philippine seismological office recorded a magnitude of 6.7 with an epicentre 14 kilometres north of Surigao. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami threat. 

Three people have died, radio station DZMM reported, citing the military, but no further details were given. 

Regional civil defence spokeswoman April Sanchez said seven people were injured outside Surigao while an undetermined number had been hurt in the city. 

“They can’t say how many yet because of the power outage” caused by the earthquake, she told AFP. 

University professor Rocks Tumadag said many people in Surigao rushed to higher ground after the quake in fear of a tsunami.  He said aftershocks were still rocking the city hours after the quake.

“There was panic in the streets,” he told AFP, adding that many structures had sustained damage and rubble littered the streets. 

“I was sleeping and when the quake happened. There were 10 to 15 seconds of vertical motion.”

“When it stopped, I grabbed my youngest daughter and ran outside. My wife also ran outside, my eldest daughter was crying,” he said. 

“We have a lot of quakes here but this was the strongest ever.”

A civil defence statement said one bridge had collapsed along with at least one building and several houses. 

“There were reported trapped individuals inside. Rescue efforts are ongoing,” the statement said. 

“We are not okay. Mass hysteria here,” journalist Danilo Adorador was quoted as saying on the website of Mindanews, a southern-based newspaper. 

Vance Larena, a tourist in Surigao, told DZMM that glass doors and windows “shattered” during the quake.  “It was a good thing there was a table there (in the room) so we could duck and cover,” he said. 

Many residents gathered in a field for safety, he said. 

“The people have calmed down but a while ago some were panicking, women were crying.”

The Philippines lies on the so-called Ring of Fire, a vast Pacific Ocean region where many of Earth’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. 

The last lethal quake that hit the country was the 7.1-magnitude one that left over 220 people dead and destroyed historic churches when it struck the central islands in October, 2013.