Deadly quake rocks Philippine tourist islands of Bohol, Cebu; scores dead

Scores dead after tremor wrecks buildings, including a historic Spanish church and university in Cebu, and triggers landslides

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, 9:18am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 3:24am


A powerful earthquake jolted three popular tourist islands in the central Philippines yesterday, killing at least 93 people, tearing down buildings and triggering landslides.

Bohol police chief Dennis Agustin said 77 of the deaths were in that province. At least 15 died in nearby Cebu province and another on Siquijor Island.

The 7.1-magnitude quake struck at 8.12am and was centered 33 kilometres below Carmen city, where many small buildings collapsed.

The town lies across a strait 60 kilometres from Cebu, the political, economic, educational and cultural centre of the central Philippines with the country's busiest port and busiest airport outside Manila. A university, a school and two shopping malls sustained major damage.

"I was fast sleep when suddenly I woke up because my bed was shaking. I was so shocked, I could do nothing but hide under the bed," said Janet Maribao, 33, a receptionist in Cebu.

Three of the people who died in Cebu were crushed to death in a stampede at a sports complex, where poor people had gathered to collect regular government cash handouts, according to the provincial disaster council chief, Neil Sanchez. "There was panic and a rush toward the exit," Sanchez said.

He said two other people were killed when part of a school collapsed on a car, while four others died at a fish market that crumbled.

The Philippines' oldest church, Cebu's Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, was badly damaged, civil defence office spokesman Reynaldo Balido said.

It was first built in the 1500s by Spanish colonisers, although its current stone structure dates back to the 1700s.

A church on Bohol that was built in the early 1600s also collapsed, according to Robert Michael Poole, a British tourist who was visiting the area. "It's absolutely devastated. The entire front of the church has collapsed onto the street," Poole said.

Aside from its beaches, Bohol is famous for its more than 1,000 small limestone "Chocolate Hills" that turn brown during the dry season.

One of the main tourist venues there, the Chocolate Hills Complex, was severely damaged and may be beyond repair.

Yesterday's main quake was followed by at least four aftershocks measuring more than 5.0 in magnitude.

More than 100 people were left dead or missing in February last year after an earthquake struck on Negros island, 100 kilometres from the epicentre of yesterday's quake.

The deadliest recorded natural disaster in the Philippines occurred in 1976, when a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake devastated the Moro Gulf on the southern island of Mindanao. Between 5,000 and 8,000 people were killed.


Recent deadly earthquakes in Asia

September 24: A quake of 7.7 magnitude kills 376 people when it strikes Baluchistan province, Pakistan

July 22: 95 people are killed and more than 1,400 injured in twin earthquakes in Gansu province in northwestern China

April 20: A 6.6-magnitude quake leaves 196 people dead, 21 missing and more than 13,000 injured when it hits Sichuan province, on the edge of the Tibetan plateau

April 16: A 7.8-magnitude quake centred in Iran leaves one dead thereand 40 in Baluchistan, Pakistan