Deadly quake rattles northern Philippines

A strong earthquake has left at least four people dead and injured dozens more in the northern Philippines. The tremor set off small landslides and damaged buildings, prompting terrified crowds and hospital patients in the capital Manila to rush outdoors. The magnitude 7 quake was centred in the province of Abra in a mountainous area, said Renato Solidum, the head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

Philippines EarthquakeDamage caused by the earthquake in Ilocos Sur province (Philippine Red Cross via AP)

Michael Brillantes, a safety officer of the Abra town of Lagangilang, said: “The ground shook like I was on a swing and the lights suddenly went out.

“We rushed out of the office, and I heard screams and some of my companions were in tears. “It was the most powerful quake I’ve felt and I thought the ground would open up.” At least four people died mostly in collapsed structures, including a villager hit by falling cement slabs in his house in Abra, where at least 25 others were injured.

Collapsed buildingA collapsed building in Bangued, Abra province (AP)

A construction worker was hit by debris and died in the strawberry-growing mountain town of La Trinidad in Benguet province, where some roads were shut by landslides and boulders.

Five people were injured when rocks and debris pummelled their SUV and a truck on a hillside road in Mountain Province near Benguet, officials said. Many houses and buildings had cracked walls, including some that collapsed in Abra, where new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who took office less than a month ago, planned to travel to meet victims and local officials. Mr Marcos told a news conference he was in his office at the riverside Malacanang presidential palace complex when the chandeliers began swaying and making clanking sounds. “It was very strong,” he said, of the ground shaking.

The Red Cross issued a picture of a small three-storey building precariously leaning toward a debris-covered road in Abra. A video taken by a witness showed parts of an old stone church tower being peeled off, then falling in a cloud of dust on a hilltop.

Crushed carThe quake was measured at magnitude 7 (AP)

Patients, some in wheelchairs, and medical personnel were evacuated from at least two hospitals in Manila, about 200 miles south of Lagangilang, but were later told to return after engineers found only a few minor cracks on walls. The quake’s strength was lowered from the initial 7.3 magnitude after further analysis.

The quake was set off by movement in a local fault at a depth of 15 miles, the institute said, adding it expected damage and more aftershocks. The US Geological Survey measured the quake’s strength at 7.0 at a depth of six miles. Shallower quakes tend to cause more damage.

The Philippines lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur.

It is also lashed by about 20 typhoons and tropical storms each year, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

A magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in the northern Philippines in 1990.