Quake kills at least 68 in central Philippines
Centuries-old churches destroyed: casualties expected to rise
Damage to the facade of the Basilica of the Holy Child in Cebu City. (Photo by Brian Gaviola)
A magnitude 7.2 earthquake rocked the central Philippines on Tuesday, killing at least 68 people and destroying houses, government buildings, and centuries-old churches.
According to the US Geological Survey, the quake's epicenter was under the island province of Bohol.
Fatalities and numerous injuries have occurred in both Bohol and Cebu provinces, according to officials.
The earthquake was also felt in the island provinces of Negros Oriental, Southern Leyte, and several areas of Leyte and Samar.
Many buildings were damaged in the quake which struck at 8.12am local time, officials said.
"We are expecting the number of casualties to rise as we continue to receive reports from the field," Rey Balido, spokesman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said.
At least four people were killed in Cebu city when a slab of concrete fell from a building onto the main market, while several other people, including a child, were killed in a stampede, according to local news reports.
Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran said the tremor "was so strong" and caused "real damage" to structures.
He said the diocese is still assessing the damage to churches but Spanish-era churches in the towns of Loon and Carmen collapsed.
At least two people were reported trapped inside the Loon church, the bishop added.
Reports said the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon, considered one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, was also heavily damaged.
In Cebu City, the earthquake damaged the Basilica of the Holy Child.
Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto said in a television interview that authorities are still determining the extent of the damage and casualties as aftershocks continued.
Air carriers Cebu Pacific and AirAsia Philippines suspended flights to and from Tagbilaran City and Cebu.
The Philippines forms part of what is known as the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a region vulnerable to frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity.
Rey Balido, spokesman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said 15 people were killed in nearby Cebu province, four in Bohol and one in the province of Siquijor. The earthquake was also felt in the island provinces of Negros Oriental, Southern Leyte, and several areas of Leyte and Samar.
Many buildings were damaged in the quake which struck at 8.12am local time.
"We are expecting the number of casualties to rise as we continue to receive reports from the field," Balido said.
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