MANILA, Philippines — A powerful earthquake killed at least two people and injured dozens in the northern Philippines on Wednesday, where the quake triggered minor landslides, damaged buildings and churches and sent terrified crowds and hospital patients into the open air in the capital.
The head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Renato Solidum, said that the 7-magnitude earthquake occurred in the province of Abra, which is located in a mountainous area.
“The ground shook like it was on a swing and the lights suddenly went out. We rushed out of the office and I heard screams and some of my colleagues were in tears,” said Michael Brillantes, a security officer in Abra, Lagangilang, near the epicenter.
“It was the strongest earthquake I’ve ever felt and I thought the ground was going to open up,” Brillantes told The Associated Press by cellphone.
A villager died when cement slabs collapsed on his house in Abra, injuring at least 25 people and hospitalising more, authorities said.
A construction worker was crushed to death by debris in the strawberry-growing mountain town of La Trinidad in Benguet province, where some roads were blocked by landslides and rocks. Five people were injured when rocks and debris overturned an SUV and a truck on a mountain road in Mountain province near Benguet, officials said.
The walls of many houses and buildings were cracked, including those in Abra, where new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office less than a month ago, had planned to visit victims and local officials.
The Red Cross released a photo of a small three-story building leaning precariously toward a debris-strewn road in Abra. A video shot by a panicked witness showed parts of the old stone church tower being peeled away, followed by a cloud of dust falling over the hill.
Patients and medical staff, some in wheelchairs, were evacuated from at least two hospitals in Manila, about 300 kilometers (200 miles) south of Lagangilang, but were later told to return after engineers found only a few small cracks in the walls.
After further analysis, the strength of the earthquake was reduced from the initial strength of 7.3 points. The institute said the quake struck at a local fault at a depth of 25 kilometers (15 miles), adding that there would be debris and more aftershocks.
The US Geological Survey measured the magnitude of the earthquake at 7.0 and a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles). Shallower earthquakes cause more damage.
The Philippines lies along the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire,” an arc of faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur. It also experiences about 20 typhoons and tropical storms each year, making it one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.
In 1990, a 7.7-magnitude earthquake in the northern Philippines killed nearly 2,000 people.
Associated Press reporters Joeal Calupitan and Aaron Favila contributed to this report.
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