Eight killed, 60 injured in two quakes in northern Philippines

The damage made to the Sta Maria de Mayan Church after a pair of strong earthquakes of magnitude 5.4 and 5.9 struck the region in Itbayat on Batanes island, on July 27, 2019. PHOTO: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MANILA, Jul 27, 2019, The Straits Times. At least eight people were killed and 60 injured when two earthquakes, just hours apart, struck the Philippines’ northernmost province early on Saturday (July 27), reported The Straits Times.

The first tremor, a magnitude 5.4, struck Batanes, a group of sparsely populated islets north of the main island of Luzon, at 4am, almost the same time as an earthquake drill was being held in the capital Manila.

A second quake, recorded at magnitude 5.9, hit Batanes at around 7.30am.

Mr Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said eight people had died as at 9am.

“They were hit by rubble and debris, not buried,” he told reporters.

Police Sergeant Uzi Villa told Agence France-Presse many people were still asleep when the first quake struck.

“Some people died because they were sleeping soundly since it was still early… We saw houses shaking. Some of the walls of the houses collapsed and fell on the victims,” he said.

Photos and videos posted on Twitter showed walls of homes giving way, and rubble by the roadside.

The upper half of a church’s steeple housing the belfry had collapsed onto a lawn.

The bottom half of a two-storey school building had deep cracks and crumbling cement throughout its walls.

The hardest hit was Itbayat, an island town that is nearer to Taiwan’s southernmost tip than Luzon with a population of just 2,800, and could only be reached by boat.

Half the town’s inhabitants were evacuated to an outdoor park.

“Most of the houses destroyed were old and made of limestone,” Mr Dan Esdicul, NDRRMC’s head in Batanes, told radio station DZMM.

He said there had been aftershocks every two hours after the first tremor. Seismologists had recorded another 5.4-magnitude quake at around 9am.

The Philippines is part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from quake-prone Japan through South-east Asia and across the Pacific basin.

A 6.3-magnitude earthquake rocked large parts of the Philippine capital and north of it in April, killing at least eight, emptying buildings of tens of thousands who have just returned from the long Holy Week holiday, and shutting down rail lines and a key airport.

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