Building collapses and falling rubble were cited as causes for most of the deaths. The quake was centered beneath the island province of Bohol, but the most reported casualties so far are in the major city of Cebu, on a separate island 37 miles from the epicenter. Despite the city’s distance from Bohol, the streets were described as being full of concrete fragments and broken glass.
Cebu, considered the nation’s second major city (next to the capital city of Manila, nearly 400 miles north), reported at least 15 deaths. Five of those killed in Cebu died in the collapse of a fishing port. At least two more deaths and many more injuries were caused when the roof of a market collapsed as well.
Unconfirmed reports indicated the collapse of a school as well. “Communication lines are quite difficult here,” said Neil Sanchez, the leading official Cebu’s disaster management office. “Even the disaster risk reduction management office has been damaged. We had to move elsewhere.”
Bohol, where the tremor was centered near the town of Catigbian, also reported at least 4 casualties. That island is a major center of tourism in the Philippines, but many of its historical buildings that attract those tourists were damaged or even demolished, with centuries-old churches especially being reported as collapsing or taking heavy damage.
In many places on Bohol, the massive temblor had also left large areas without power.
The powerful 7.2 earthquake comes directly after a weekend in which the Philippines was already devastated by Typhoon Nari, a deadly storm which killed 13 or more people in the northern part of the country. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council also reported that the massive tropical cyclone’s effects had forced over 43,000 people out of their homes in 11 provinces mere hours before the quake hit today.
Tuesday was also a holiday in Philippines, the first day of the Islamic festival of Eid ul Adha. Despite being a country of 90-percent Catholics, the Philippines also closes schools and offices on certain holidays for other religions, including Buddhism and Islam. Cebu resident Bonita Cabiles told the BBC that the holiday was fortunate, as children weren’t at school and many adults were not at work when the quake struck.
Cabiles also reported extensive damage in Cebu, including to the renowned Santo Nino church, one of the area’s most famous tourist attractions. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) urged Filipinos to stay away from Santo Nino and the other churches, many of which are centuries old and considered national treasures.
Tuesday’s quake was actually centered 35 miles below ground, underneath Bohol Island, and was followed by several aftershocks. Earthquakes are unfortunately a common occurrence in the Philippines, which lies on the so called “Ring of Fire” that encircles the Pacific tectonic plate. Well-known as a hotbed of seismic activity, the Ring of Fire is extremely active with both earthquakes and volcanism. Just last year, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake even more powerful than Tuesday’s 7.2 temblor devastated the eastern Philippines.
Written By: Jeremy Forbing