Two killed as powerful quake hits central Philippines

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 2:22am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 12:14pm

A 6.5-magnitude earthquake killed at least two people in the central Philippines on Thursday, with more than five people still trapped inside a collapsed commercial building, officials said.

An 18-year-old woman died after being hit by falling debris in Ormoc City on Leyte island, near the epicentre of the quake, police said.

Elsewhere, rescuers pulled out eight survivors and one body from a collapsed three-storey structure in the town of Kananga, also on Leyte island, Kananga Vice Mayor Elmer Codilla said.

“Eight have been rescued. All are in hospital,” he said, declining to say if their injuries were serious.

Among those rescued were two people who previously sent SMS messages under the rubble, calling for help, he said.

“There are six or seven still inside. Definitely more than five but less than 10,” he added.

Among those still trapped are two children who have been reached by rescuers but who still cannot be extricated from the rubble, the vice-mayor said.

“We have given them water,” he added.

Dominico Petilla, the governor of Leyte province, said rescue personnel, ambulances and heavy equipment have been sent to the mountainous town of about 50,000 people.

“They’re still trying to pull out the injured,” Petilla told local television.

The 10-year-old building housed a small hotel upstairs and shops on the ground floor, officials said.

The quake hit at a depth of around six kilometres (four miles), the US Geological Survey said.

There was no warning of a tsunami, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.

Large parts of Leyte were devastated by super typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. Huge tsunami-like waves smashed the city of Tacloban and nearby areas, leaving 7,350 people dead or missing.

Tacloban and Ormoc, the island’s other main city, largely escaped damage this time, residents contacted by telephone said.

However the entire island of Leyte as well as neighbouring islands were still without power after the quake caused geothermal plants on the island to shut down, an energy department statement said.

While the plants were soon back online, inspectors were still searching for damage to power lines, the department said, adding that it could take “one or two weeks” to fully restore power.

Roy Ribo, an official with a farmers’ organisation who was visiting Kananga, said he watched schoolchildren panic as their teachers herded them out of their classrooms for safety after the quake.

“Many children were hysterical. They were frantic, crying,” he added.

Father Romy Salazar, the Catholic parish priest of the Leyte town of Jaro at the quake’s epicentre, said residents rushed out of their homes as the town shook.

“I was inside the church. I was forced to hold on to the main door,” Salazar said, but added he had not seen any major damage in the town.

In February, a 6.5-magnitude quake killed eight people and left more than 250 injured outside the southern city of Surigao. The following month, a 5.9-magnitude tremor killed one person there.

Before the Surigao quakes, the last fatal earthquake to hit the country was a 7.1-magnitude tremor that left more than 220 people dead and destroyed historic churches when it struck the central islands in October 2013.

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