Big Quake Jolts Bohol, Cebu; 144 Dead

Centuries-old churches destroyed; temblor felt in Mindanao and Bicol

CEBU CITY — A magnitude 7.2 earthquake jolted Bohol, Cebu and parts of Central Visayas Tuesday, destroying centuries-old churches, malls, buildings, roads and bridges and killing at least 40 persons and injuring more than 100 persons.
Cebu and Bohol officials immediately declared their province under state of calamity due to the magnitude of damage of the earthquake.
The temblor was also felt in Panay Island, Bicol and Mindanao, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvocs) which immediately warned of dangers and aftershocks.
Twenty six of the dead were in Bohol, said Governor Edgar Chato as he appealed for tents, water and ready-to-serve food for those affected by the temblor and its continuing aftershocks.
Bohol provincial board member Cesar Tomas Lopez reported the earthquake’s death toll in the province may still rise.
Lopez  noted the victims were either pinned down or hit by falling trees and objects.
Aside from leaving some 106 people injured, he said the tremor also either totally or partially damaged 22 old churches and several roads and bridges in the province.
The tremor also left Bohol without electricity, he continued.
Fifteen of those dead were in Cebu, according to initial reports from authorities. One died in Siquijor province.
Centuries-old churches in Loboc, Baclayon, Dauis and Loay in Bohol provinces were heavily damaged and another church was totally destroyed. Many of the damaged churches have been declared as national heritage sites. 
Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medroso told CBCP News that the tremors were “so strong” damaging the historical churches and totally destroying the Loon Church. ”These are old churches that are very important in our culture, especially with our faith,” said Medroso who said that the Carmen church was also damaged.
 Bohol Governor Edgardo Chatto said the old city hall of Tagbilaran was also damaged.
Several structures in Cebu, including the Gaisano Country Mall in Banilad, One Citilink Terminal, Ayala Center, Cebu Technological University, Cebu Doctor’s University, and the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño were also damaged.
The fifth-floor of the Cebu Doctors University Hospital caught fire while another part collapsed, according to the Philippine Information Agency.
Initial reports showed some of the fatalities were recovered from a portion of the Pasil Fish Port in Cebu which collapsed while one meat vendor died after being crushed by debris inside a public market and 19 injured when hit by falling debris in Mandaue City.
Philvocs said the tremor occurred at 8:12 a.m. with its epicenter traced two kilometers southeas tof Carmen town, home of the world-famouse Chocolate Hills in Bohol. Many tourists, foreign and domestic, felt the strong quake and glad they survived it.
The quake registered at Intensity 7 in Tagbilaran City, capital of Bohol province.
Phivolcs said the quake was felt at Intensity 6 in Hinigaran, Negros Occidental; Intensity 5 in Iloilo City and La Carlota, Negros Occidental; Intensity 4 in Masbate City and Roxas City, San Jose, Culasi in Antique and Guihulngan in Negros Oriental; and Intensity 3 in Davao City, Legaspi City and Sorsogon.
Phivolcs said the tremor, which was tectonic in origin, had a depth of 33 kilometers.
Initial reports from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC)  revealed that the death toll reached 20 and at least 33 were injured hours after the temblor struck.
Most of those killed were hit by debris and other rubble.
There were reports that some persons were trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings in Cebu and Bohol but authorities are verifying the reports.
At least 110 aftershocks have been recorded by Tuesday noon.
Phivolcs cautioned the public against arbitrarily entering buildings and houses in areas affected by the earthquake  due to danger of collapsing as aftershocks continue to occur.
Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said Phivolcs already monitored 110 aftershocks as of 11 a.m. Tuesday with the strongest at magnitude 4.5 around9:55 a.m.
”The aftershocks will continue in the coming days but will diminish in number over time,” he said.
“The last strong earthquake in Bohol – a magnitude 6.8 tremor – occurred offshore in 1990, damaging roads and bridges there and triggering a tsunami then,” he said.
In Dumaguete City, Governor Roel Degamo appealed to the public in Negros Oriental to stay calm and take the necessary precautionary measures in case aftershocks occur.
In Toledo City, a four-year-old child died during a stampede while 19 persons were injured. Sixteen others were injured in similar stampede in Pinamungahan town.
Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) on Tuesday cancelled its Manila-Tagbilaran-Manila flights due to the strong earthquake. The Tagbilaran International Airport suffered minor damages in the ceiling of the control tower and operations halted temporarily but resumed later.
The Philippine Coast Guard suspended shipping operations and travel by ships and boats in all ports in the Visayas due to the big temblor.
Classes were suspended in most of the areas affected by the temblor.

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