12 killed as strong earthquake rocks Philippines

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Manila: A 7.2-magnitude earthquake this morning collapsed the buildings and roofs and cracked the roads in the central Philippines, killing at least 12 people.

The quake was felt across the central region, and people rushed out of homes and buildings, including hospitals, as aftershocks continued. Offices and schools were closed for a national holiday, which may have saved lives.

The temblor, which struck at 8:12 a.m. (local time), was centered about 56 km below Carmen town on Bohol Island and did not cause a tsunami. At least four were killed on Bohol, said the island’s Gov. Edgardo Chatto.

Officials said that five others were killed when a fishing port collapsed in Cebu city, across the strait from Bohol. Two more people died and 19 were injured when the roof of a market in Mandaue in Cebu province collapsed. A woman died after being hit on the head when the quake toppled a building.

Photos from Cebu broadcast on TV stations showed a fallen concrete two-storey building, and reports said that an eight-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, 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 km 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 that 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 said. “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 others ran up a mountain fearing a tsunami would follow the quake.

Tuesday is a national holiday for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, and that may have reduced casualties. The quake 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.

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