32 dead, power down as 7.2 quake hits Bohol
MANILA, Philippines — The death toll in the powerful 7.2- magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol and other parts of Visayas and Mindanao Tuesday morning rose to 32, authorities said.
Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, likened the energy released by the quake to “32 Hiroshima bombs.” The earthquake toppled buildings and historic churches and sending terrified residents into deadly stampedes.
At least 16 people died in Bohol and 15 in Cebu, officials said. Scores were injured.
“We ran out of the building, and outside, we hugged trees because the tremors were so strong,” said Vilma Yorong, a Bohol provincial government employee.
“When the shaking stopped, I ran to the street and there I saw several injured people. Some were saying their church has collapsed,” she told The Associated Press by phone.
As fear set in, Yorong and the others ran up a mountain, afraid a tsunami would follow the quake. “Minutes after the earthquake, people were pushing each other to go up the hill,” she said.
Panic ensued as people spilled out on the street after the quake struck at 8:12 a.m. It was centered about 33 kilometers (20 miles) below Carmen town on Bohol Island, where many buildings collapsed, roads cracked up and bridges fell. Extensive damage also hit densely populated Cebu City, across the narrow strait from Bohol, causing deaths when a fish port and a market roof fell.
Senior Superintendent Dennis Agustin, police director of Bohol provincial Police Office said that of the 102 injured victims, 60 were from Tagbilaran, but noted that the number of injured victims is still “unofficial” as authorities have yet to get information from local police stations.
Most of those killed were hit by falling trees and old fences and slabs. A landslide was also recorded.
“Panic ensured . . . the water rose a bit [yung tubig],” he said, but said that earthquake really didn’t trigger tsunami.
Phivolcs said the earthquake had a depth of 33 kilometers.
The tremor lasted for a minute and triggered a blackout.
Several aftershocks were felt.
According to initial reports, some houses and buildings were damaged.
The quake set off a stampede in a Cebu gym where people lined up to receive government cash assistance, killing five and injuring eight others, said Neil Sanchez, provincial disaster management officer. In another city nearby, 18 people were injured in the scramble to get out of a shaking building where the assistance was being handed out.
The earthquake was felt in parts of Visayas and Mindanao:
Intensity VI – Hinigaran, Negros Occidental
Intensity V- Iloilo, City
Intensity IV – Masbate City
Intensity III – Davao City
Photos from Cebu broadcast on TV stations showed a fallen concrete 2-story building, and reports said an 8-month-old baby and a second person were pulled out alive.
“It’s fortunate that many offices and schools are closed due to the holiday,” said Jade Ponce, the Cebu mayor’s assistant.
He said that patients were evacuated to basketball courts and other open spaces “but we’ll move them back as soon as the buildings are declared safe.”
Cebu province, about 570 kilometers (350 miles) south of Manila, has a population of more than 2.6 million people. Nearby Bohol has 1.2 million people and is popular among foreigners because of its beach and island resorts.
Vilma Yorong, a Bohol provincial government employee, said she was in a village hall in Maribojoc town when “the lights suddenly went out and we felt the earthquake.”
“We ran out of the building, and outside, we hugged trees because the tremors were so strong,” she told The Associated Press by phone. “When the shaking stopped, I ran to the street and there I saw several injured people. Some were saying their church has collapsed.”
She said that she and the others ran up a mountain fearing a tsunami would follow the quake. “Minutes after the earthquake, people were pushing each other to go up the hill,” she said.
Edgar Chatto, the Bohol governor, said that a church was reported damaged in the provincial capital of Tagbilaran and a part of the city hall collapsed, injuring one person.
A 17th-century stone church in Loboc town, southwest of Carmen, crumbled to pieces, with nearly half of it reduced to rubble. Other old churches dating from the Spanish colonial period, which are common in the central region, also reported damage, including the bell tower of the centuries-old Santo Nino Church in Cebu, which collapsed.
Tuesday is a national holiday for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, and that may have reduced casualties. The earthquake also was deep below the surface, unlike the 6.9-magnitude temblor last year in waters near Negros Island, also in the central Philippines, that killed nearly 100 people.
Regional military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said that he recalled soldiers from the holiday furlough to respond to the quake. He said it damaged the pier in Tagbilaran and caused some cracks at Cebu’s international airport but that navy ships and air force planes could use alternative ports to help out.
Passenger flights were put on hold until officials check runways and buildings for damage.
Earthquakes are common in the Philippines, which lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire.”
With a report from Nikko Dizon, Agence France Presse and Associated Press
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