Powerful earthquake strikes the Philippines, killing at least 7

February 6th, 2012 - 6:06 pm ICT by BNO News  

TAYASAN, PHILIPPINES (BNO NEWS) — A powerful earthquake struck the central Philippines on late Monday morning, destroying scores of buildings and generating a small tsunami, officials said. At least seven people were killed.

The 6.9-magnitude earthquake at 11.49 a.m. local time (0349 GMT) was centered about 5.8 kilometers (3.6 miles) northwest of Tayasan, a 4th class municipality in the province of Negros Oriental. It struck about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS).

The United States Geological Survey (USGS), which measured the strength of the earthquake at 6.7 on the regional moment magnitude scale, estimated that some 700,000 people may have felt strong shaking. Another 14 million were estimated to have perceived light to moderate shaking.

Benito Ramos, the Executive Director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), confirmed at least seven people had been killed while 12 others were injured. The death toll was expected to rise with reports of collapsed buildings and landslides, leaving an unknown number of people missing.

Two people were reported killed in Tayasan, including a 9-year-old girl who died when a wall collapsed at her elementary school. Also killed was 11-year-old Anafe Estrabella who died when the wall of a chapel collapsed in Barangay Mompong, which is located in the municipality of Jimalalud. At least four others were reported dead in the city of Guihulngan, including a 62-year-old woman.

Specific details about the casualties in Guihulngan were not immediately available, but NDRRMC reported a town hall had collapsed in the area. A 3-story building collapsed in the municipality of La Libertad while dozens of homes and other buildings were said to be damaged. Some bridges and roads were also destroyed.

“The Governor (Roel Degamo of Negros Orential) issued an order suspending all classes and work in government offices for the rest of the afternoon of February 6,” Ramos said. He said classes, offices and malls were also closed in Iloilo City on Panay island, where tremors were also felt.

Following the earthquake, PHIVOLCS briefly issued a tsunami alert level two for areas along the coast of the Negros and Cebu Islands, warning residents to be on alert for unusual waves. But although no mandatory evacuation orders were given, scores of people in the region fled inland and to higher ground in fear of a tsunami.

There were no reports of a major tsunami, but at least five cottages were wiped out by a small tsunami at the Comendador Beach Resort in La Libertad. Tsunami waves also damaged at least 20 residential houses elsewhere in La Libertad, Ramos said.

Several aftershocks hit the region in the hours after the devastating earthquake, the strongest a 6.2 magnitude aftershock which struck near Tayasan at 6.10 p.m. local time (1010 GMT). PHIVOLCS said additional damage was likely as a result of the strong aftershock, but no other details were immediately available.

In Manila, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said President Benigno S. Aquino III was closely following the situation. “The President continues to be updated of the situation in the Visayas following the earthquake that struck at 11:49 this morning,” he said. “He ordered the NDRRMC to assess and collate the extent of damage and casualties, and to provide the necessary interventions.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health (DOH) said its chief advises the public to ensure safety by staying away from damaged buildings. “Health teams have been alerted and ordered to validate incident reports, evaluate damage to health facilities, and to assist the victims if necessary,” the spokesperson said. “The DOH, through its regional offices, is coordinating with the local governments and other agencies to provide needed assistance.”

The Philippines is on the so-called ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin which is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions also occur frequently in the region.

In July 1990, a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the densely populated island of Luzon, killing at least 2,412 people and injuring thousands more. It was one of the most deadliest earthquakes in the Philippines in recent history.

Only more deadly was an enormous 8.1-magnitude earthquake in August 1976 which shook Mindanao island and had its epicenter in the Moro Gulf. It caused a destructive tsunami in the Celebes Sea, causing devastation in settlements along the coast of the Moro Gulf on Mindanao island and on the nearby Sulu Islands.

The 1976 earthquake was felt on all of the central islands of the Philippines Archipelago and in the southern part of Luzon. As a result of the earthquake and tsunami, more than 8,000 people were killed or left missing, 10,000 were injured, and 90,000 were left homeless.

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