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Marcos Heads to Earthquake Epicenter Abra to Survey Damage

At least 5 people perished, buildings destroyed.
by Agence France Presse
Just now
Composite photos: Boulders blocking the Halsema highway in Mountain Province and the partially damaged Bantay watch tower in Vigan.
Photo/s: Facebook/Mountain Province DRRMO/AFP

MANILA -- President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. was on Thursday due to visit the northern Philippine region that was hit by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed five people and toppled buildings, his spokeswoman said.

Wednesday's earthquake, which struck Abra province and was felt in the capital, Manila some 300 kilometers away, is the first major disaster to test Marcos Jr. Northern Luzon is also his family's political bailiwick.


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Shallow earthquakes like the one in Abra tend to cause more damage than deeper ones. This one left more than a hundred people injured across the hilly region, triggered dozens of landslides, damaged buildings, and knocked out power.

On Thursday, the extent of the damage became clear as disaster officials and survivors posted images of cars covered in debris and collapsed two-story houses.

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"We felt really strong shaking. We started shouting and rushed outside," said university student Mira Zapata in the San Juan municipality of Abra, which took the full force of the quake.

"Our house is OK but houses down the hill were damaged."

As buildings shook and walls cracked in the municipality of Dolores, people ran outside, Police Major Edwin Sergio told AFP.

"The quake was very strong," Sergio said, adding that windows of the local market were broken.

In Bangued, the provincial capital of Abra, a 23-year-old woman was killed after a wall fell on her, police said. At least 78 were injured in the province.

A video posted on Facebook and verified by AFP showed cracks in the asphalt road and ground in Bangued.

"Some of the buildings here show cracks," police chief Major Nazareno Emia added. "Power was cut off and internet as well."

Two construction workers in the nearby landlocked province of Benguet died in separate incidents, police said. 

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Another person was killed when boulders smashed into the building site where he was working in Kalinga province, police said. Six other workers were injured.

Police said an elderly woman in Suyo municipality in Ilocos Sur province suffered fatal injuries after she was buried by a landslide while out walking.

In Vigan City, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Ilocos Sur, centuries-old structures built during the Spanish colonial period were damaged, police said.

Ring of Fire

The Philippines is regularly rocked by quakes due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

Wednesday's quake was one of the strongest recorded in the Philippines in years and was felt across swathes of Luzon island, the most populous in the archipelago.

It was followed by nearly 300 aftershocks, the local seismological agency said. Several of the subsequent quakes measured from magnitude 4.7 to 5.2, according to USGS.

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Residents and office workers in Manila were evacuated from high-rise buildings.

"I grabbed money and our belongings and then I went out with my parents," said Christina Gonzales, 19, after fleeing a city hotel. 

Verified video footage posted on Facebook showed the Bantay Bell Tower in the popular tourist destination of Vigan partially crumbling.

Two visitors suffered minor injuries from falling debris, an official said.

Other buildings in the city were also damaged. 

"We can't rule out the possibility of another strong earthquake," said Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

GUIDE: What to Do After an Earthquake if You're Living in a Condo

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, whose family stronghold is in the north, said he would delay visiting the region to avoid causing disruption.

He urged people to remain in emergency shelters until their homes have been checked for damage.

Military personnel have been deployed to Abra to help with rescue operations.

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At least 58 landslides have been reportedInterior Secretary Benjamin Abalos said.

National disaster agency spokesman Mark Timbal said road-clearing operations were under way. There had been no reports of damage to local dams. 

In October 2013, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Bohol Island in the central Philippines, killing more than 200 people and triggering landslides.

Old churches in the birthplace of Catholicism in the Philippines were badly damaged. Nearly 400,000 were displaced and tens of thousands of houses were damaged. 

The powerful quake altered the island's landscape and a "ground rupture" pushed up a stretch of ground by about three meters, creating a wall of rock above the epicentre. 

In 1990, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in the northern Philippines created a ground rupture stretching over a hundred kilometers.

Fatalities were estimated to reach over 1,200, with major damage to buildings in Manila.

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