A powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Philippine island of Luzon on Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said, with strong tremors felt in many areas including in the capital Manila. The tremors, in turn, set off small landslides, damaged buildings and churches, and prompted terrified crowds and hospital patients in the capital to rush outdoors.
USGS said the earthquake’s epicentre was about 11 km east-southeast of the town of Dolores in Abra province.
Eric Singson, a congressman in the northern Ilocos Sur province, told DZMM radio station the quake had been felt strongly.
“The earthquake lasted 30 seconds or more. I thought my house would fall,” said Singson.
“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,” said Michael Brillantes, a safety officer of the Abra town of Lagangilang, near the epicenter.
“It was the most powerful quake I’ve felt and I thought the ground would open up,” Brillantes told The Associated Press by cellphone.
The quake was also felt strongly in Manila and the city’s metro rail systems had been halted at rush hour after the quake, the transport ministry said.
The senate building in the capital was also evacuated, media reported.
A villager died when he was hit by falling cement slabs in his house in Abra, where at least 25 others were injured and were mostly confined in hospitals, officials said. A construction worker was also fatally 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 pummeled their SUV and a truck on a hillside road in Mountain Province near Benguet, officials said. This was followed by two more deaths in Benguet and another province.
Renato Solidum, director of the state seismology agency, told DZMM radio station, that the quake could have caused damage in Abra where Dolores is located, but did not see damage in Manila.
“In the capital region it was not destructive. I think it does not have an effect on structures but good to inspect vital facilities like the MRT.”
Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has ordered the immediate dispatch of rescue and relief teams to the earthquake-affected province of Abra, his press secretary said on Wednesday. Marcos will also fly to Abra, said Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles, at a news conference.
After further analysis, the quake’s strength had been lowered from its initial magnitude. It was set off by movement in a local fault at a depth of 25 km, the institute said, adding it expected damage and more aftershocks.
The US Geological Survey had measured the quake’s strength at 7.0 and depth at 10 km. Shallower quakes tend to cause more damage.