Earthquake rattles southern Philippines

DAVAO, Philippines (AP) — A strong and shallow earthquake struck a southern Philippine province and outlying areas last night, damaging a small college building in one city and prompting residents to dash out of homes and shopping malls in panic, officials said.

There were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries, but Philippine authorities advised residents to stay out of homes that may have sustained cracks and been weakened by the intense shaking.

The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.4 quake was centred about eight kilometres from Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat province. It had a depth of only 14 kilometres. Shallow quakes tend to cause more damage than deeper ones.

Leslie Francisco, a local disaster-response officer, said a small school building in the downtown area of Digos city in Davao del Sur province sustained extensive damage but there was no report of anybody being trapped inside. Residents poured out of home and shopping malls as the ground shook in many areas.

The Philippines, one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, has frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity because it lies on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’.