A child carries a crucifix outside a government center in Surigao City as residents of coastal villages fled to higher grounds following a magnitude 6.7 earthquake on Feb. 10. (Photo by Roel Catoto)
Thousands of people remain on the streets of the southern Philippine city of Surigao as aftershocks continue to hit three days after a powerful earthquake killed at least eight people and injured hundreds.
The Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology has recorded almost 200 aftershocks in the city of 152,000 people after a 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck on Feb. 10.
"People are terrified of the aftershocks," said Romina Marasigan, spokeswoman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Over a thousand structures were destroyed or damaged, according to disaster officials. Those who were killed and injured were pinned down or hit by debris.
"We remain on red alert status," said Marasigan, adding that disaster officials continue to monitor the situation and gather more information on the extent of the damage.
At least 500 people have set up camp at a government center near the provincial capital while others have set up temporary shelters on higher ground.
"We were caught off guard," said Maria Espania, who was injured after she was hit by debris. "We were trembling and we didn't know what to do. My children panicked," she said.
Albert Pepito, who fled the village of Taft, was not taking chances. "With this kind of situation I think it's better to leave," he said.
Surigao City's airport is closed after the runway suffered damage after a magnitude 6.7 earthquake rocked the city Feb. 10. (Photo by Robinson Ninal)
Appeal for help and prayers
Government and church leaders appealed for help following the earthquake.
Father Bob Puracan, chancellor of Surigao Diocese, appealed for help.
"It is in these trying times that we can truly express our communion, sharing what we have and helping those who needs our assistance," said the priest.
President Rodrigo Duterte pledged relief and rehabilitation efforts on Feb. 12 during a visit to the stricken area.
"In everything that happens in the world, there is always a time for them," the president told residents who sought shelter in a government gymnasium.
Long lines of people could be seen queuing for water from fire trucks after the water supply was cut off.
The earthquake damaged at least ten major bridges and roads and knocked out power supplies, although electricity has already been restored in most of the city.
Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology, warned of more aftershocks that could last for days or weeks.
President Rodrigo Duterte arrives in Surigao City on Feb. 12 to visit victims of the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that hit the city on Feb. 10. (Photo by Robinson Ninal)
"Aftershocks are smaller than the main shock. But if the question is would there be a similar or larger earthquake coming from the same fault of the Feb. 10 earthquake, it is not discounted but the possibility is low," said Solidum.
The strongest recorded earthquake to hit the area at magnitude-7.4 was on July 1, 1879.
An average of five earthquakes hit daily across the Philippines, which lies on the so-called Ring of Fire around the Pacific Ocean.
The last strong earthquake to hit the country measured 7.1-magnitude, leaving 220 people dead and destroying historic churches when it struck the province of Bohol in October 2013.