A powerful magnitude 7 earthquake struck the northern Philippines on Wednesday, killing at least one person. It hit the island of Luzon, the largest of the archipelago, spreading panic among residents and shaking buildings as far as the capital Manila, located 300 km to the south.
According to the American Seismological Institute (USGS), the earthquake was recorded at 8:43 am local time (2:43 am Paris), at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km in the mountainous province of Abra. The USGS revised the magnitude to 7, from 7.1 previously. Many weaker aftershocks have been recorded.
The USGS notes that this area always affected by very strong earthquakes. Since 1970, within a radius of 250 km around the epicenter on Wednesday, 11 earthquakes with a magnitude of at least equal to 6.5 have occurred. It averages about once every 5 years.
A 25-year-old worker was killed when the three-story building he was working in collapsed in La Trinidad, the provincial capital of Benguet. The other seven workers in the same area were unharmed.
Lots of damage
In the town of Dolores, which is located very close to the epicenter, frightened residents ran from their homes and the windows of the local market were broken, local police commander Edwin Sergio said. “The earthquake was very strong. The tables of fruits and vegetables in the market were overturned,” he continued, adding that there were cracks in the walls of the police station.
Another police commander, Nazareno Emia, said that many injured were brought to the hospital. “Some buildings have cracks. Electricity and internet were cut off,” he said. MP Ching Bernos, who represents Lone District, Abra, said the earthquake “damaged many houses and businesses”, without giving further details.
In Vigan City, in the neighboring province of Ilocos Sur, buildings dating back to the Spanish colonial era (1565-1898) were destroyed. The videos show particular damage to the historic Bantay bell tower, a popular tourist attraction. It was built in 1590.
Mira Zapata, a student, said she was at her home in the town of San Juan when she felt “a very strong shaking”. “We started screaming and ran outside,” he said, as the aftershocks continued. “Our house is in good condition but the ones going down the hill are damaged,” continued this witness.
Landslides were reported in parts of the affected region, National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Mark Timbal said. He added that there was no damage to the dams and the clearing operation on the roads continued.
Another religious and tourist building was also destroyed. This is Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Vigan. The structure was badly affected and the pieces collapsed.
Faced with this situation, local authorities have closed schools and businesses in many localities. Many countries have expressed their support and willingness to help. The French Embassy, after all who shared in his “thoughts and prayers for those affected by the earthquake”, remembering the number where he can be contacted in case of emergency: +63 917 532 0756.
The Philippines is frequently hit by earthquakes due to its position on the “Ring of Fire”, an arc of strong seismic activity that runs across the Pacific Ocean through Japan and Southeast Asia. Wednesday’s earthquake was the country’s strongest in years. In October 2013, an earthquake of magnitude 7.1 on the island of Bohol, in the center of the country, left more than 200 dead and 400,000 homeless.
Earthquakes cause landslide hazards. Tens of thousands of houses as well as historic churches dating back to the early days of Catholicism in the Philippines were destroyed. This strong earthquake changed the landscape of the island and caused a spectacular “earthquake”, which raised part of the land to three meters and created a stone wall above the epicenter.
In 1990, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in the northern Philippines killed more than 1,200 people, caused extensive damage to Manila and ruptured the ground for more than a hundred kilometers.