MANILA (7th UPDATE) - Panicked throngs rushed out of buildings in Masbate on Tuesday morning after a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the province and rattled neighboring areas, leaving at least one dead.
The tremor hit 5 kilometers southwest of Cataingan town at 8:03 a.m., said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
Phivolcs initially reported the quake's magnitude at 6.5, which it later upgraded to 6.6. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) measured the quake at magnitude 6.7.
"There are a lot of damaged houses," said Staff Sgt. Antonio Clemente in Cataingan, which lies west of the Samar Sea.
"It was really strong."
A retired policeman was killed and several others were injured after his 3-story house collapsed in Cataingan, police said.
Local radio reporter Christopher Decamon said he saw emergency workers pull the man's body from the rubble. The man's wife escaped unharmed.
The earthquake "was really strong. Our people were broadcasting at the time but they just ran out of the building," Decamon told Agence France-Presse by telephone.
A video posted on Facebook and verified by AFP shows light damage to a food market in Cataingan. Overturned buckets and small fish were scattered on the ground and chunks of cement had fallen from a pillar. People stood outside on the street.
Philippine Red Cross chairman Sen. Richard Gordon tweeted photos taken by his colleagues showing buildings in Cataingan with corrugated iron roofs fallen in.
A movement in the Philippine Fault Zone caused the quake, said Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum.
This fault's northern portion last moved in 2003, triggering a magnitude 6.2 quake in Masbate, Solidum told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
Tuesday's tremor will not cause a tsunami because the fault moved horizontally instead of vertically, he said. However, the quake is expected to spawn aftershocks and damage to property, Phivolcs said.
"Iyong possibility na magkaroon pa ng mas malaking magnitude na earthquake, hindi natin puwedeng alisin. Pero most likely, karamihan d'yan ay mas maliit na," Solidum said.
(We cannot remove the possibility of another earthquake with a greater magnitude. But most likely, most of the aftershocks will be weaker.)
So far at least 14 aftershocks have been recorded by the Philippine seismology office, with the strongest registering at a magnitude 3.5.
At a depth of 1 kilometer, the quake was felt at a "destructive" intensity 7 in Cataingan. This intensity can strongly shake trees, overturn heavy furniture, ring church bells and crack roads, hollow block walls and dikes, said Phivolcs.
Neighboring town Pio V Corpus also felt the tremor at Intensity 7, according to its local disaster official Mary Grace Barlizo. Two residents were given medical assistance, she said.
Residents were advised to stay in open areas as authorities have yet to assess damage to their homes, Barlizo said. The town's risk reduction and management office will hold an emergency meeting later Tuesday, she added.
"Yung iba, ina-advise pumunta sa identified evacuation center pero syempre dun sa open area muna kasi yung aftershocks po palagi po," she told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(Some are advised to go to identified evacuation center and stay in the open area due to often occurring aftershocks.)
A "strong" intensity 5 shaking that can rock parked vehicles and make hanging objects swing was felt in Masbate City, and Almagro and Tagapul-an in Samar, said Phivolcs.
The quake was felt at a "moderately strong" intensity 4, which is like the passing of a heavy truck and may cause a rumbling sound, in these areas:
Palanas, and San Jacinto, Masbate; Sorsogon City; Legazpi City, Albay; San Andres, Quezon; Mapanas and Palapag, Northern Samar; Barugo, Dagami, Dulag, Julita, La Paz, Palo, and Tanauan, Leyte; and Sagay City, Negros Occidental.
The quake was felt at a "weak" intensity 3 in Baybay City, Isabel, Javier, and Kananga in Leyte; Ormoc City; Mulanay, Quezon; and Iloilo City.
Phivolcs likens this intensity to the passing of a light truck. It can be felt indoors especially in upper floors of buildings and may cause dizziness.
The quake was "slightly felt" at intensity 2 in Guinayangan and Lopez, Quezon; President Roxas, Capiz; Patnongon, Patnongon, San Jose de Buenavista, and Tibiao, Antique.
Lezo, Aklan and Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental felt the quake at a "scarcely perceptible" intensity 1.
PANIC IN THE STREETS
Government employees rushed out of the Iloilo provincial capital and the labor department office in Legazpi City, videos from reporters on the ground showed.
In Tacloban and Palo in Leyte, some residents reported experiencing nausea and seeing power lines swaying.
"It was strong, dizzying," police Col. Eric Dampal from Iloilo City told Agence France-Presse. "Almost everyone inside buildings rushed to the streets. Up to now, they're still outside."
In nearby Palanas town, police chief Captain Alvin Guerina said several patients, including a pregnant woman about to go into labor, were evacuated from a hospital as a precaution in case of aftershocks.
Homes in poor rural areas of the Philippines are often made from lightweight material such as wood.
USGS said in a statement however that "there is a low likelihood of casualties and damage."
"Recent earthquakes in this area have caused secondary hazards such as landslides and liquefaction that might have contributed to losses," it added.
Damaged houses should be inspected by authorities before residents use them again, said Solidum.
The quake struck as the archipelago battles surging numbers of coronavirus infections, with more than 164,000 cases and restrictions on movement that vary across the country.
A lockdown affecting a quarter of the population, including the capital Manila, will be eased Wednesday.
The Philippines is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.
A 6.8-magnitude quake struck the southern island of Mindanao in December, killing at least 3 people, injuring dozens and damaging buildings. It hit as the island was still recovering from a string of deadly quakes in October.
- With reports from Joyce Clavecillas, Jose Carretero, Zhander Cayabyab, Dennis Datu, Sharon Evite, Jessa Mylce, Yasmin Pascual-Dormido, Jamaine Punzalan, Gillan Ropero, and Bea Zaragosa, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse