earthquakes KILL 8 in Philippines

MANILA: Eight people have been killed and 60 others injured in a series of strong earthquakes that jolted the Philippines’ northernmost province on Saturday, officials said.
The first earthquake, measured at a magnitude of 5.4, struck 12 kilometres north-east of the island town of Itbayat in Batanes province, 695 kilometres north of the capital Manila, at 4:16 am, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.
More than three hours later, a 5.9-magnitude quake hit 21 kilometres north-east from Itbayat, Phivolcs added.
Another tremor, with a magnitude of 5.8, rocked the nearby town of Basco more than two hours after that, the institute said.
The first pre-dawn quake caused five of the casualties, who were buried in collapsed houses, according to the national civil defence office. Three more people were killed when they were hit by falling debris in the following tremors, the office added.
A 131-year-old church was among the houses and structures damaged in the quakes. The buildings were mostly made from cement and stone as protection from strong typhoons that pass through the province, said Roldan Esdicul, head of the provincial disaster relief agency.
Most of Itbayat population of nearly 3,000 people was evacuated to a public plaza to keep them out of their homes amid aftershocks, while the town’s electricity was also cut off as a safety measure, Esdiculsaid.
“It’s safest for everyone to be outside of their houses,” he told Manila radio station DZMM. “Most of those killed were sleeping and buried by their collapsed houses or hit by falling debris.”
Residents said it was the first time they experienced strong earth quakes.
“We couldn’t stand up, we had to sit down and wait for the earthquake to stop,” said Obet Garcia Nico, a tour guide who was waiting for the sunrise with two tourists at Rapang Cliff, an iconic spot in Itbayat, when the first tremor struck.
“When we got to town, we were shock to see all the damage, the collapsed structures,” he said in an interview on DZMM.
Ellian Castillo-Ponce, a high school teacher in Itbayat, said she, her family and neighbours were woken up by the earthquake.
“Everyone was screaming,” she said.
The military dispatched a plane from Manila to pick up emergency personnel and relief goods from nearby northern provinces to bring to Itbayat, which can only be accessed by boat.
“We are waiting for the updated if it’s safe to land because they are still experiencing aftershocks,” said Ricardo Jalad, head of the national civil defence office.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo assured the affected residents of Batanes that relief operations were in full swing to help them.
“We ask affected constituents to remain calm as we urge them to remain vigilant and cooperative to government response and relief teams,” he said in a statement.
“The president has been briefed on the situation, and he directed all agencies to respond
and undertake measures to provide assistance to the victims of this force majeure and rehabilitate the damaged properties in the areas,” he added. — dpa