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Earthquake Strikes Central Philippines During Pandemic, Leaving 1 Killed

The quake was strong and dizzying, witnesses said.
by Agence France Presse
Aug 18, 2020
This photo shows a house in Cataingan, Masbate that was damaged by an earthquake on Aug. 18, 2020.
Photo/s: Philippine Red Cross Masbate/Twitter

CATAINGAN, Masbate -- A 6.6-magnitude earthquake shook the central Philippines on Tuesday, sending residents fleeing their homes and damaging buildings and roads, with at least one person killed.  

The shallow quake struck southeast of Masbate Island in the Bicol region at 8:03 a.m., the US Geological Survey said.

"There are a lot of damaged houses," said Staff Sergeant Antonio Clemente in Cataingan, a town of about 50,000 people on the impoverished island several kilometres west of the epicenter in the Samar Sea. "It was really strong."

Local radio station reporter Christopher Decamon said he saw emergency workers pull the body of a man from the rubble of a three-storey house on the outskirts of Cataingan. 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 AFP by telephone.

Police confirmed the man's death. So far there have no other reports of casualties but search and rescue efforts are still under way.

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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.  

In Masbate's Palanas town, police chief Captain Alvin Guerina told AFP that several patients, including a pregnant woman about to go into labour, were evacuated from a hospital as a precaution in case of aftershocks.

So far at least 14 aftershocks have been recorded by the Philippine seismology office, with the strongest registering at a magnitude 3.5.


A video posted on Facebook and verified by AFP shows light damage to a food market in Cataingan. Overturned buckets and small fish were scatted on the ground and chunks of cement had fallen from a pillar. People stood outside on the street.

Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon tweeted photos taken by his colleagues showing buildings in Cataingan with corrugated iron roofs fallen in.

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Other photos taken in nearby Uson town show a sealed road with a large crack across it. 

The quake was felt hundreds of kilometres away. 

In the city of Iloilo about 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of Masbate in the neighbouring Visayas region, residents ran out onto the streets.

"It was strong, dizzying," police Colonel Eric Dampal told AFP. "Almost everyone inside buildings rushed to the streets. Up to now, they're still outside."

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 three people, injuring dozens and damaging buildings. 

It hit as the island was still recovering from a string of deadly quakes in October.