Manila, Philippines — A powerful earthquake killed at least two people and injured dozens in the northern Philippines on Wednesday, as the quake triggered small landslides, damaged buildings and churches and pushed panicked crowds and hospital patients in the capital outdoors.
Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said the 7.0-magnitude earthquake had its epicenter in the stricken province of Abra in a mountainous area.
said Michael Bryants, a security officer in the town of Abra Lagangilang, near the epicenter.
“It was the strongest earthquake I’ve ever felt, and I thought the Earth would open,” Bryants told the Associated Press by mobile phone.
Officials said a villager was killed when cement slabs fell in his home in Abra, injuring at least 25 others, most of whom were hospitalized.
A construction worker was hit by debris and died in the mountainous strawberry-growing town of La Trinidad in Benguet County, where some roads were closed due to landslides and rocks. Five people were injured when rocks and debris collided with their SUV and truck on a hillside road in Mountain County near Benguet, officials said.
Several homes and buildings were cracked in the walls, including some that collapsed in Abra, where new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office less than a month ago, planned to travel to meet victims and local officials.
The Red Cross released a photo of a small three-story building leaning precariously toward a road covered in debris in Abra. A video taken by a terrified witness showed parts of an old church stone tower being peeled off, then falling into a cloud of dust on top of a hill.
Patients, some in wheelchairs, and medical staff were evacuated from at least two hospitals in Manila, about 300 kilometers (200 miles) south of Lagangilang, but were later asked to return after engineers discovered some minor cracks in the walls.
The strength of the earthquake was reduced from the initial 7.3 degrees after further analysis. The institute said the quake was caused by movement in a local fault at a depth of 25 km, adding that it expected damage and more aftershocks.
The US Geological Survey measured the earthquake’s strength at 7.0 and a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles). Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage.
The Philippines lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the arc of faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur. It is also hit by about 20 hurricanes and tropical storms each year, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.
An earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale killed nearly 2,000 people in the northern Philippines in 1990.
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