6.8 Earthquake Shakes Central Philippines; 1 Dead

Published February 6, 2012 6:36AM (EST)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A strong earthquake struck the central Philippines on Monday, killing a child, destroying buildings, shattering windows and triggering a local tsunami alert that sent residents fleeing.

The 6.8-magnitude quake hit in a narrow strait just off Negros Island. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology issued the tsunami alert for central islands, saying the quake could trigger a 3-foot (1-meter) wave along the island's eastern coast as well as west of the country's second-largest city, Cebu.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue a wider regional warning.

The epicenter was closest to Tayasan, a coastal town of about 32,000 people flanked by mountains in Negros Oriental province. A child there died when a concrete fence of a house collapsed, said Benito Ramos, head of the Office of Civil Defense.

"So far one dead, but we could not yet account for the damage to buildings," Tayasan police officer Alfred Vicente Silvosa told The Associated Press by phone. He said there were still aftershocks "so we are outside, at the town plaza. We cannot inspect buildings yet because it's dangerous."

"I felt the building shaking, so I rushed out of the building. Our computers, shelves, plates, the cupboards, water dispenser all fell," he said.

A three-story office building collapsed in La Libertad town in Negros Oriental but there were no immediate reports of casualties. Occupants of the building ran out.

Five bamboo and wooden cottages were washed out from a La Libertad beach resort by huge waves, but there were no reports of injuries, police Superintendent Ernesto Tagle told The AP.

Negros Oriental police chief Edward Carranza said that the temblor damaged many houses in Guihulngan, a city of about 180,000 people, and he ordered his men to help displaced residents find shelter. A public market collapsed and a bridge in the city was damaged.

People rushed out of schools, malls and offices during the quake, which hit at 11:49 a.m. (3:49 a.m. GMT). Officials in some areas suspended work and canceled classes. Power and telecommunications were knocked out in several places.

Carranza said policemen rushed out of his building when the quake struck. "All my personnel ran out fearing our building would collapse," he said.

"Now it's shaking again," he said as an aftershock hit. "My keychain is dancing."

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered 44 miles (72 kilometers) north of Dumaguete city on Negros and hit at a depth of 29 miles (46 kilometers). The area is about 400 miles (650 kilometers) southeast of the capital, Manila.

President Benigno Aquino III's spokesman said authorities did not force people to evacuate but implored those along the shore to be vigilant. The coast guard grounded all vessels while the tsunami alert was in effect.

A mall in San Carlos city in neighboring Negros Occidental province was damaged when its windows were shattered by the shaking, Ramos said. The quake was also felt in Cebu, where it lasted about 30 seconds.

The Philippines is located in the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where earthquakes and volcanic activity are common. A 7.7-magnitude quake killed nearly 2,000 people in Luzon in 1990.


Associated Press writers Teresa Cerojano and Hrvoje Hranjski contributed to this report.

By Salon Staff

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