7 dead in Visayas quake as authorities lift tsunami alert
(Updated 6:17 p.m.) The death toll in the magnitude-6.9 quake that jolted the Visayas region on Monday morning climbed to seven in the afternoon, even as authorities had already lifted the tsunami alert it earlier raised following the quake.
6.9 quake jolts Negros and Cebu. People rush out of the buildings in Cebu City's IT Park following a 6.9-magnitude earthquake that struck central Visayas on Monday. No damage to infrastructure was reported as of press time. Jecoi Conje
A report on GMA News TV quoted National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Benito Ramos as saying that seven people have been confirmed dead due to the earthquake.
Television footage showed people scurrying out of buildings, residents converging in open spaces and frightened school children in tears.
A report on Reuters said two of the seven fatalities were children.
A grade six pupil died after being plucked out from a collapsed chapel wall while a nine-year-old girl was killed when the concrete wall of a school collapsed, the report said, quoting officials.
A three-storey building caved in and some seaside cottages were destroyed by waves in La Libertad, Negros Oriental, near the epicenter of the quake 5 km (three miles) off the shore of Tayasan town and at a depth of 10 km, according to local calculations.
The Official Gazette, meanwhile, said on its Twitter account the tsunami alert had been "canceled" after an extended observation period.
"As per (the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology) report, tsunami alerts in the Philippines are now canceled after an extended observation period of two hours," it said on its 3 p.m. tweet.
In a statement, the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson said an initial assessment by the NDRRMC showed that roads and bridges remain passable.
It added that the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are already on standby to provide assistance to affected areas.
"I have advised our people to return to their homes and stay calm. I appeal to our president for help. We're just recovering from Typhoon Sending and now this earthquake," Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo said in a television interview, referring to a typhoon which killed about 1,250 people in the southern Philippines in December.
Authorities earlier issued a tsunami alert following the quake, which they said may generate big waves. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the tsunami alert would likely last only two hours.
State seismologists said the quake's epicenter was in the sea between Negros Island and Cebu.
Ramos, in an earlier interview on radio dzBB, said in Negros Occidental, the quake damaged the glass windows of a mall. Cracks were also noted at a mall in Iloilo.
In Cebu, the provincial capitol suspended work in the afternoon, the radio dzBB's affiliate said.
The Cebu Department of Foreign Affairs building also had cracks, the report added.
PAL: No cancellation of flights
The Philippine Air Lines, meanwhile, said it did not cancel any of its flights to the Visayas and Mindanao as the quake did not cause damage to airport facilities.
"PAL assures its passengers that all PAL flights in the Visayas and Mindanao and green and go despite the earthquake shortly before noon today," said Cielo Villaluna, spokesperson for the flag carrier.
Meanwhile, the United States Geological Survey recorded another quake in the Negros area at 12:20 p.m.
It initially measured the quake at magnitude 5.6, with the epicenter at:
- 71 km south-southeast of Bacolod
- 84 km west-southwest of Cebu
- 84 km north of Dumaguete
- 556 km south-southeast of Manila
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