An earthquake in the Philippines hits the island from the north, killing at least 2 people and injuring dozens

A strong earthquake killed at least two people and injured dozens in the northern Philippines on Wednesday, where the tremor triggered small landslides and damaged buildings and churches and prompted terrified crowds and hospitalized patients in the capital to rush outside.

The 7.0-magnitude quake was centered in the hard-hit province of Abra, in a mountainous region, said Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

“The ground shook like I was on a swing and the lights suddenly went out. We rushed out of the office, and I heard screams and some of my mates were in tears,” said Michael Brillantes , a security guard from the city of Abra. Lagangilang, near the epicenter.

“It was the strongest earthquake I’ve felt and I thought the ground was going to split open,” Brillantes told The Associated Press by cellphone.

A villager died when he was hit by falling cement slabs at his house in Abra, where at least 25 other people were injured and were mostly confined to hospitals, officials said.

In this handout provided by the Philippine Red Cross, a vehicle is damaged when a wall collapses after a strong earthquake hit Ilocos Sur Province, Philippines on Wednesday. (Philippine Red Cross/Associated Press)

A construction worker was hit by debris and died in the strawberry-growing mountain town of La Trinidad, Benguet province, where some roads were closed by landslides and rocks. Five people were injured when rocks and debris slammed into their SUV and a truck on a hillside road in Mountain Province near Benguet, officials said.

Many homes and buildings had cracked walls, some of which collapsed in Abra, where new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office less than a month ago, planned to visit to meet with victims and local officials.

The Red Cross released a photo of a small three-storey building leaning precariously towards a debris-covered road in Abra. Video taken by a panicked witness shows parts of an old stone bell tower being ripped off and then falling in a cloud of dust on a hill.

A damaged building lies on its side after a strong earthquake hit Bangued, Abra province, northern Philippines. (The Associated Press)

Patients, some in wheelchairs, and medical staff were evacuated from at least two hospitals in Manila, about 300 kilometers south of Lagangilang, but were later told to return after engineers found only a few minor cracks on the walls.

ring of fire

The strength of the earthquake has been lowered from the initial magnitude of 7.3 after further analysis. The quake was triggered by the movement of a local fault at a depth of 25 kilometers, the institute said, adding that it expected damage and further aftershocks.

The US Geological Survey measured the earthquake’s strength at 7.0 and its depth at 10 kilometers. Shallower earthquakes tend to cause more damage.

The Philippines sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur. It is also hit by around 20 typhoons and tropical storms each year, making it one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.

A magnitude 7.7 earthquake killed nearly 2,000 people in the northern Philippines in 1990.