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Powerful quake kills 74 people, destroys heritage churches in Bohol, Cebu

(Updated 12:00 a.m. Oct. 16, 2013) The provinces of Bohol and Cebu were placed under a state of calamity after a magnitude-7.2 earthquake hit the Visayas region Tuesday morning, destroying centuries-old churches and leaving at least 74 people dead.

The Cebu provincial board passed a resolution at around noon, while Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto told GMA News TV's Balita Pilipinas that the provincial council had just declared the whole province a calamity area.

“[This is] to allow the local government to be able to use the calamity fund to respond to the situation in their respective municipalities,” he said.

At least 65 people died in collapsed structures and landslides on the island of Bohol, 630 km (390 miles) south of the capital, according to a report from the region 7 office of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
The report said eight others died in Cebu and another on Siquijor island. An earlier report had put the death toll in Cebu at nine.
More than 260 were wounded on Cebu and Bohol islands.

The epicenter of the quake was in the town of Carmen where the view deck of the famous Chocolate Hills, Bohol's most popular tourist attraction, suffered extensive damage.

In Cebu, the Philippines' oldest church, the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino was badly damaged, according to an Agence France-Presse report. The church was first built in the 1500s by Spanish colonizers, although its current stone structure dates back to the 1700s.

In Bohol, the heritage churches of Dauis (pictured above) and Loboc were among several cultural treasures that were damaged. Some of Bohol's churches date back to the 17th century.

Loon's church was nearly completely destroyed, trapping people in the rubble, Archbishop Leonardo Medroso of Bohol told GMA News.

Baclayon Church was partially damaged, while its bell tower totally collapsed, according to GMA News stringer Leo Udtohan's report on News To Go.

“We hope the situation will soon return to normal para makabalik yung mga tao sa kanilang pamamahay. Yung mga tao nasa kalsada, nagka-camp out sa labas dahil takot sila na baka may aftershocks na sumunod pa,” said Bohol Gov. Chatto.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has recorded at least 289 aftershocks as of 5 p.m. or nine hours after the quake struck, Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said in a "24 Oras" report.

Solidum said the strongest aftershock was recorded at 4.8 magnitude at around 12:22 p.m. He noted that aftershocks may lessen in number after two to three days.

"Ang ating inaasahan ay posibleng magpatuloy (ang aftershocks) sa mga susunod na araw hanggang linggo," he said in an interview during the program.

He said the aftershocks may still damage crumbled buildings.

"Importante po talaga, kahit hindi naman grabe ang damage, na ma-inspect ng local government officials ang lahat ng building sa isang lugar na nasalanta ng lindol, upang matiyak ang kaligtasan ng mga kababayan," Solidum said.

Read: Phivolcs helps Pinoys prepare for earthquakes

Earlier, Solidum said the Bohol quake was stronger than the January 2010 Haiti earthquake. It is also the strongest to hit Bohol in 23 years, the second having a 6.8 magnitude last February 1990. — With reports from Amita Legaspi and Marc Cayabyab/BM/YA/HS, GMA News

Photo of Dauis church courtesy of Michelle Francisco via YouScoop