Two powerful earthquakes shake southern Philippines

MANILA: Two powerful earthquakes shook the southern Philippines on Tuesday, authorities said, with the second damaging a building and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of villagers from their homes.

A magnitude 6.0 tremor struck around 2:00 p.m. (0600 GMT), a few kilometers from the township of Maragusan in the mountainous gold mining province of Davao de Oro on the island of Mindanao, the US Geological Survey said.

Local authorities said there were no reports of casualties or significant damage.

But a shallower second quake, measuring 5.6 magnitude, hit the neighboring community of New Bataan nearly three hours later, triggering the collapse of some homes.

Bataan’s new civil protection officer, Lynne Dollolasa, said nearly 300 people had been forced from their homes in the village of Andap, where “a number of houses collapsed”.

About 100 people at a mall in the city of Tagum in the adjacent province of Davao del Norte were hit by falling glasses and plates as they fled the building, said Jay Suaybaguio, the province’s information officer.

“I was on the third floor buying office supplies when the quake suddenly struck,” Suaybaguio told AFP.

“When we reached the first floor, we saw broken wine bottles and spices. The lights went out but the emergency lights came on helping us find our way.”

Photos posted to the Davao del Norte Disaster Management Authority’s Facebook page showed collapsed sections of ceiling at the Tagum mall, which it attributed to the “series of earthquake incidents.”

The Davao del Norte government suspended work and classes on Tuesday and Wednesday to allow inspections of public buildings and infrastructure.

The first tremor lasted about 30 seconds and was followed by aftershocks, said Corporal Stephanie Clemen, a police officer in Tagum, about 40 kilometers from Maragusan.

“We immediately went under our desks and when the floor stopped shaking we went straight outside,” Clemen told AFP.

“We’re still outside because a moderate aftershock just hit.”

The quake didn’t seem to have destroyed anything, Clemen said, but it was strong enough to “frighten”.

Tremors are a daily occurrence in the Philippines, which lie along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of intense seismic and volcanic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific Basin.

Most earthquakes are too weak to be felt by humans, but powerful and destructive earthquakes come at random with no technology available to predict when and where they will occur.

The country’s civil defense agency regularly conducts exercises simulating earthquakes along active fault lines.

The last major earthquake occurred in October in the north of the Philippines.

The 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the mountain town of Dolores in Abra province, injuring several people, damaging buildings and cutting power to most of the region.

A 7.0-magnitude tremor in mountainous Abra last July triggered landslides and crevasses, killing 11 people and injuring several hundred. -AFP Two powerful earthquakes shake southern Philippines

Russell Falcon

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