Philippines earthquake: At least one dead after 6.6 magnitude tremor

At least one person has died after a 6.6-magnitude earthquake shook a central Philippine region on Tuesday, damaging houses and sending residents fleeing from their homes.

The Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology said the quake, which struck at 8.03am local time (12.03am GMT), hit southeast of Masbate province at a depth of 21km.

The seaside town of Cataingan, which sits several kilometres west of the epicentre in the Samar Sea, was left particularly battered.

“There are a lot of damaged houses,” said staff sergeant Antonio Clemente in Cataingan, home to about 50,000 people. “It was really strong,” he added.

Roads and bridges in the coastal town were also left cracked. Isagani Libatan, a Cataingan resident, said he was on his way to his aunt’s house for breakfast when his motorcycle suddenly swayed from left to right as the ground jolted.

“I thought it was my tyre but people suddenly streamed out in panic from swaying houses then we lost power,” Mr Libatan told the AP by telephone, pausing briefly as he felt another fairly strong aftershock.

Police colonel Joriz Cantoria of the Masbate provincial police said in an initial report that a retired police officer had died after being hit by a collapsed wall in his home.

Mr Cantoria also reported damage to Cataingan’s port and the public market.

A volunteer looks at the cracks on a road in Cataingan after the quake struck (AP)

“Masbate is conducting search and retrieval operations,” Mr Cantoria confirmed.

So far at least 14 aftershocks have been recorded by the Philippine seismology office, with the strongest registering at a magnitude of 3.5.

An injured man is treated by a Bureau of Fire Protection officer in Cataingan (AP)

The Philippines lies in the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur. It’s also lashed by about 20 typhoons and storms each year, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

A magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in the northern Philippines in 1990.

Additional reporting by agencies

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