Manila: A strong earthquake in northern Philippines has killed four people and injured 60, the interior minister said on Wednesday.
Two people died in Benguet province, one in Abra province, and one more in another province, Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos told a televised news conference.
A 25-year-old man was killed by falling debris, said Abra Vice Governor Joy Bernos, when the quake struck about 11 km (six miles) southeast of Dolores town at a shallow depth of 10 km (6 miles), according to US Geological Survey data.
"Despite the sad reports about the damages caused by the earthquake, we are assuring quick response to those in need and affected by this calamity," President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on Facebook.
The quake hit close to Marcos family's political stronghold.
‘UAE citizens in Ilocos are safe’
The UAE Embassy in Manila has confirmed that all UAE citizens in Ilocos, which has been hit by an earthquake this morning, are safe, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Taking to Twitter, the embassy urged all UAE citizens to follow safety instructions issued by the authorities.
The UAE Embassy also urged citizens to register via the Twajudi service offered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and to contact the mission in case of an emergency on 0097180024 or 0097180044444.
A hospital in Abra province was evacuated after the building partially collapsed following the quake, but there were no casualties reported, said officials.
The Philippine seismology agency said landslides had been reported in some part of Abra, particularly Manabo town, following the earthquake.
Abra, home to nearly 250,000 people, is a landlocked province in the northern Philippines. Its deep valleys and sloping hills are enclosed by rugged mountains.
The Philippines is prone to natural disasters and is located on the seismically active Pacific "Ring of Fire", a band of volcanoes and fault lines that arcs round the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Earthquakes are frequent and there are an average of 20 typhoons each year, some triggering deadly landslides.
“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 in Abra province.
“We dont have power supply because thats automatically cut off due to danger,” Villamor told DZRH radio.
The public information office of Abra province posted photographs on its Facebook page showing buildings badly damaged, with walls with huge cracks crumbling.
USGS said the earthquake’s epicentre was about 11km east-southeast of the town of Dolores and occurred at a shallow depth of 10km.
“The focus of attention is on Abra and nearby provinces. This is a major earthquake. We expect strong aftershocks,” Renato Solidum, director of the state seismology agency, told DZMM radio station.
Eric Singson, a congressman in the northern Ilocos Sur province, told DZMM radio station the quake had been felt strongly.
“The earthquake lasted 30 seconds or more. I thought my house would fall,” said Singson.
“Now, we are trying to reach people .... Right now there are aftershocks so we are outside our home.” The quake was also felt in Manila and the city’s metro rail systems was halted at rush hour after the quake, the transport ministry said.
The senate building in the capital was also evacuated, media reported.
Tourist Edison Adducul told radio he was taking photos of the Bantay Church Bell tower in Vigan when the quake struck, shaking the tower for up to three minutes.
Senator Imee Marcos said several churches were damaged.
"The antique bricks and coral stones fell down from the Bantay Bell Tower," she said.
The quake was also felt in Manila where several buildings were evacuated, with some people forced to flee from the 30th floor of one building, and the city's metro rail systems were halted at rush hour.
President orders rescue, relief operations
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has ordered the immediate dispatch of rescue and relief teams to the earthquake-affected province of Abra, his press secretary said on Wednesday.
Marcos will also fly to Abra, the epicentre of the earthquake, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles told a news conference.
Ring of Fire
The Philippines is regularly rocked by quakes due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.
Wednesday's quake was the strongest recorded in the Philippines in years.
In Vigan City, in the nearby province of Ilocos Sur, centuries-old structures built during the Spanish colonial period were damaged.
Verified video posted on Facebook showed the Bantay Bell Tower in the popular tourist destination partially crumbling.
"We can't rule out the possibility of another strong earthquake," said Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
In October 2013, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Bohol Island in the central Philippines, killing over 200 people and triggering landslides.
Old churches in the birthplace of Catholicism in the Philippines were badly damaged. Nearly 400,000 were displaced and tens of thousands of houses were damaged.
The powerful quake altered the island's landscape and a "ground rupture" pushed up a stretch of ground by up to three meters, creating a wall of rock above the epicentre.
In 1990, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in the northern Philippines created a ground rupture stretching over a hundred kilometres.
Fatalities were estimated to reach over 1,200 and caused major damage to buildings in Manila.
The nation's volcanology and seismology institute regularly holds quake drills, simulating scenarios in the nation's active fault lines.
During major earthquakes, the agency said people would find it difficult to stand on upper floors, trees could shake strongly, heavy objects and furniture may topple and large church bells may ring.