Six dead as earthquake causes severe damage in Philippines

A powerful earthquake has struck the Philippines, killing at least six people and injuring more than 120 others amid significant damage.

Officials are combing through cracked buildings looking for more casualties after the earthquake struck late on Friday with a magnitude of 6.5.

It roused residents from sleep in Surigao del Norte province and hundreds had to flee their homes.

The earthquake's centre was about 14 kilometres (eight miles) north west of the provincial capital of Surigao at a relatively shallow depth of 10km (six miles), said Renato Solidum, of the Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology.

Nearly 100 aftershocks have been felt, officials said.

Evacuation centres took in worried residents overnight but many have returned home, welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo said.

She said officials were assessing the damage in Surigao city and outlying towns.

Mr Solidum said the earthquake was set off by movement in a segment of the Philippine fault, which sits in the Pacific so-called Ring of Fire where tremors and volcanoes are common.

At least six people were killed, some after being hit by falling debris and concrete walls, provincial disaster-response official Gilbert Gonzales said.

At least 126 others were injured in Surigao city, about 700km (430 miles) south east of Manila.

"Rescuers pulled out a man pinned by a collapsed wall in his house but he died and was no longer brought to a hospital," Mr Gonzales sad.

TV footage showed the facade of a number of buildings heavily cracked, their glass windows shattered with canopies and debris falling on parked cars on the street below.

Rescuers in one building are trying to break a collapsed concrete slab to check if there are people pinned underneath.

Roads had visible cracks in the coastal city and a bridge collapsed in an outlying town.

Rescue teams were checking for possible casualties in the village of Poknoy, part of the city of 140,500 people, officials said.

The city's airport was temporarily closed due to deep cracks in the runway, aviation officials said.

A major port in Lipata district also was briefly closed while engineers checked the stability of an access road, Mr Gonzales said.

"The shaking was so strong I could hardly stand," coast guard worker Rayner Neil Elopre said.

Village leaders asked residents to move to a school building on higher ground, he said.

He had to pause briefly during a mild aftershock while talking on the phone.

Police officer Jimmy Sarael said he, his wife and two children embraced each other until the shaking eased.

They later moved to the moonlit grounds outside the provincial capitol complex to join more than 1,000 other worried residents, he said.

The last major earthquake that struck Surigao, an impoverished region also dealing with a communist insurgency, was in the 1800s, Mr Solidum said.

A magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people on the northern island of Luzon in 1990.


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