Strong quake kills two in south Philippines

MANILA (AFP) – A powerful earthquake struck the southern Philippines yesterday, crushing two people under debris, cracking buildings and injuring dozens in a region still reeling from a previous deadly tremor.

Terrified locals ran into the streets after the shallow quake, which hit the island of Mindanao as schools and offices opened for the day.

The shaking lasted up to a minute in some areas, damaging homes, multi-storey buildings and classrooms in a region where hundreds are still displaced by a quake that killed at least five earlier this month.

The Philippines suffers regular tremors as part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

A teenage boy was crushed by a falling wall as he tried to escape his school in Magsaysay, the town spokesman told AFP. Though other students were injured in “stampede” to escape the building, they survived.

A resident walks past destroyed houses after a 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit Tulunan town, North Cotabato province, on the southern island of Mindanao. PHOTO: AFP

A collapsing wall in another town, Koronadal, killed a 66-year-old man, local authorities told AFP.

At least 50 people were hurt by falling debris, including some seven pupils and teachers hurt escaping their collapsed elementary school. Locals were awed by the power of the quake, which was shallow and thus potentially more destructive.

“Buildings were not just moving, they were swaying,” Gadi Sorilla, a doctor at a hospital in Tulunan, a town about 25 kilometres from the epicentre told AFP.

He said the hospital had quickly received about 10 patients, some with head injuries.

Tulunan’s mayor Reuel Limbungan said the local municipal hall had been heavily damaged and authorities had received “lots of reports of injuries”. Rescue teams have begun fanning out to assess the damage to the region, where electricity and phone services were knocked out by the power of the quake.

The United States (US) Geological Survey said the initial 6.6 magnitude quake was followed by a number of smaller shakes, including one measuring 5.8.

The continuing tremors were causing anxiety on the ground, with people refusing to go back inside buildings for fear of being caught in any resulting collapse.

Schools across the area have been shuttered as a precaution.