Rescuers look for signs of life after Philippines earthquakes

At least 16 killed as 6.1 magnitude earthquake strikes area 110km north of Manila

A resident looks at the rubble of St Catherine church, including a toppled head of a statue, following an earthquake in Porac township, Pampanga province, north of Manila. Photograph: Bullit Marquez/AP

A resident looks at the rubble of St Catherine church, including a toppled head of a statue, following an earthquake in Porac township, Pampanga province, north of Manila. Photograph: Bullit Marquez/AP

 

Rescue teams in the Philippines searched for signs of life beneath the rubble of a collapsed four-storey commercial building on Tuesday after a strong earthquake shook the country’s biggest island, killing at least 16 people.

Heavy lifting equipment and search dogs were used as dozens of firefighters, military and civilian rescue teams raced to shift lumps of concrete in a commercial area of Porac, about 110km north of Manila, where a 6.1 magnitude earthquake damaged several buildings on Monday.

Two people were rescued and carried out on stretchers on Tuesday, adding to seven found alive and four found dead overnight after higher levels caved in on a ground-floor supermarket in Porac, killing five people. Seven were killed elsewhere in the town.

Another, stronger earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 struck in Samar island in the central Philippines on Tuesday afternoon, but there were no reports of injuries or major damage.

The national disaster agency said the Monday earthquake injured 81 people and damaged 29 buildings across Luzon island, with 14 people reported missing.

An investigation was under way into why the supermarket building collapsed so easily when most structures suffered only superficial damage from a quake that officials said was the biggest the town had ever felt.

Porac mayor Condralito Dela Cruz said the earthquake was the most intense the town had ever experienced.

“We’re not sure how many people are trapped still,” he told television news channel ANC.

“We can still hear some voices, the voice of a woman,” he said.

The quake, which struck at 5 pm local time (10am Irish time) on Monday, was initially reported as a magnitude 6.3 but was later revised down to 6.1 by the US Geological Survey (USGS).

The Philippines is prone to natural disasters and is located on the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a horse shoe-shaped band of volcanoes and fault lines that arcs round the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Aurelia Daeng (65) was in her family drug store in Porac when Monday’s quake struck, breaking windows, leaving cracks in the floor and destroying one wall of her home.

“It was very strong. It was our first time experiencing something like that,” she said.

“This one, it’s terrifying.”

The earthquake was felt strongly in key business areas of Manila, with residential and office buildings evacuated after being shaken for several minutes. Train services were halted and roads and sidewalks were clogged by the sudden exodus of workers.

The government declared Tuesday a holiday for civil servants in Metro Manila to allow for safety inspections of buildings. Foreign exchange trading was suspended and a treasury bond auction cancelled.

The international airport in Clark, a former US military base in Pampanga, remained closed for repairs, while parts of one corner of a historic church in the province collapsed. - Reuters