The death toll from a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck the central Philippine island of Bohol yesterday rose to 93, as rescuers struggled to reach patients in a collapsed hospital. Centuries-old stone churches crumbled and wide areas were without power.
Bohol police chief Dennis Agustin said 77 of the deaths came from the province. At least 15 others died in nearby Cebu province and another on Siquijor Island.
The quake struck at 8:12am and was centered about 33km below the city of Carmen, where many small buildings collapsed.
Many roads and bridges were reported damaged, making rescue operations difficult. However, historic churches dating from the Spanish colonial period suffered the most. Among them was the country’s oldest, the 16th-century Basilica of the Holy Child in Cebu, which lost its bell tower.
Nearly half of a 17th-century limestone church in Loboc, southwest of Carmen, was reduced to rubble.
The highest number of dead — 18 — were in the municipality of Loon, 42km west of Carmen, where an unknown number of patients were trapped inside the Congressman Castillo Memorial Hospital, which partially collapsed. Rescuers were working to reach them, civil defense spokesman Major Reynaldo Balido said.
As night fell, the entire province was in the dark after the quake cut power supplies. Windy weather and rain also forced back a military rescue helicopter.
Authorities were setting up tents for those displaced by the quake, while others who lost their homes moved in with their relatives, Bohol Governor Edgardo Chatto said.
Extensive damage also hit densely populated Cebu city, across a narrow strait from Bohol, causing deaths when a building in the port and the roof of a market area collapsed.
The quake set off two stampedes in nearby cities. When it struck, people gathered in a gym in Cebu rushed outside in a panic, crushing five people to death and injuring eight others, provincial disaster management officer Neil Sanchez said.
“We ran out of the building, and outside, we hugged trees because the tremors were so strong,” said Vilma Yorong, a provincial government employee in Bohol.
“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 by telephone.
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.
However, the quake did not cause a tsunami.
Offices and schools were closed for a national holiday — the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha — which may have saved lives. The earthquake also was deeper below the surface than a magnitude 6.9 temblor last year in waters near Negros Island that killed nearly 100 people.
Aledel Cuizon said the quake that caught her in her bedroom sounded like “a huge truck that was approaching and the rumbling sound grew louder as it got closer.”
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said he would travel to Bohol and Cebu today.
At presss time, there had been no reports of any Taiwanese in the area being hurt or killed.
Additional reporting by CNA