Kabul: At least four people have died and 60 others were injured by a powerful earthquake in the northern Philippines, the country’s interior minister has said.
The 8:43am (00:43 GMT) quake on Wednesday struck the mountainous and lightly populated province of Abra on Luzon, the country’s main and most populous island, causing landslides and collapsing some houses. The tremors caused high-rise towers to shake more than 400km (249 miles) away in the capital, Manila, which is located on the south of the island.
The earthquake was measured at a preliminary magnitude of 7.1 by the US Geological Survey (USGS), 7.2 by the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) and 7.3 by the Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phi-volcs).
Phivolcs later revised the magnitude down to 7.0. Still, the earthquake was strongest to have hit the Philippines in years.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, whose home town is in the northern Philippines, ordered rescue and relief teams to be sent to Abra, and was initially planning to fly to the affected area, but later said he would hold off on the trip as not to disrupt the emergency response.
USGS said the earthquake’s epicentre was about 11km (7 miles) east-southeast of the town of Dolores.
“The quake was very strong,” Police Major Edwin Sergio told the AFP news agency people in Dolores, adding there were minor cracks in the police station building.
Bottom of Form
Eric Singson, a congressman in the northern Ilocos Sur province, told DZMM radio: “The earthquake lasted 30 seconds or more. I thought my house would fall”.
Elsewhere in Abra province, a hospital was evacuated after the building partially collapsed.
“We are still experiencing aftershocks. We have received reports of damages to houses. But so far no casualties,” said Mayor Rovelyn Villamor in the town of Lagangilang.
The Philippines Red Cross said its teams on the ground were assessing damage in the affected communities.
In Manila, service on the city’s metro rail systems was temporarily suspended after the earthquake, while the Senate and many high-rise office buildings and residential towers were also evacuated.
“People were already on the streets. They were in traffic, on their way to work or already in their offices”
People in Manila were allowed to return to their homes and offices after they had been checked by officials.
The Philippines is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a 40,000km (25,000-mile) arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.
In October 2013, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Bohol Island in the central Philippines, killing more than 200 people and triggering a number of landslides.
Nearly 400,000 people were forced from their homes as a result of the disaster.