It lasted only half a minute but the devastation it caused is mind-boggling.
The powerful earthquake that rocked Bohol province and Cebu City in Central Visayas early on Tuesday toppled buildings, damaged roads and bridges and triggered a deadly stampede.
The 7.2-magnitude quake, the strongest to hit the Visayas and Mindanao in more than two decades, killed at least 85 people and injured hundreds.
An intensity-6 quake also shook Hinigaran, Negros Occidental and Dumaguete City, while intensity 5 was recorded in Iloilo and parts of Guimaras, Negros Oriental, Camiguin Island and Northern Mindanao.
The earthquake was also felt as far as Northeast of Bicol Region, like Sorsogon and Masbate, and far south in Davao City and Zamboanga.
Fifteen of the confirmed fatalities were in Cebu, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). It said 57 people were reported dead in Bohol, while one person died in nearby Siquijor Island in Negros Oriental.
However, Gov. Edgardo Chatto of Bohol said that 102 people died in his province while hundreds were injured.
Cebu and Bohol provinces have been placed under a state of calamity.
Director Renato Solidum of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said that the epicenter of the earthquake was east of Carmen, Bohol.
He said that the temblor, which was tectonic in origin, occurred 33 kilometer below the surface with a strength 32 times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima, Japan during World War II.
“Bohol island had an intensity of 7.2 but maybe the epicenter is close to 8,” Solidum said.
Worst hit was Tagbilaran City, where churches, bridges and roads collapsed.
Power outages were reported in Bohol, Mandaue City, Iloilo City, Cadiz City in Negros Occidental, and other areas in Region 11.
In Cebu, a university, a school and two shopping malls, public markets and many small buildings sustained damage in the quake.
“I was thrown to the ground by the strength of the quake.
Broken glass rained on me,” Elmo Alinsunorin, a guard for a government tax office in Cebu, said.
“I thought I was going to die.”
Authorities said the death toll could still climb as officials struggle to assess the extent of the damage in Bohol.
Officials said the death toll was not so high because there were fewer people in the damaged buildings since yesterday was a holiday.
Three of the people who died in Cebu were crushed to death in a stampede at a sports complex, where poor people had gathered to collect regular government cash handouts, according to the provincial disaster council chief, Neil Sanchez.
“There was panic when the quake happened and there was a rush toward the exit,” Sanchez said.
He said two other people were killed when part of a school collapsed on a car they had parked in, while four others died at a fish market that crumbled.
One of the main tourist venues in Bohol, the Chocolate Hills Complex, was severely damaged and may be beyond repair, according to Delapan Ingleterra, head of a local tourist police unit.
“There are huge cracks in the hotel and there was a collapse of the view deck on the second floor,” Ingleterra said. No one was injured at the complex.
Besides its beaches, Bohol is famous for its more than 1,000 small limestone “Chocolate Hills” that turn brown during the dry season.
There were no reports of foreign tourists being killed anywhere in the disaster zone.
Classes were suspended in all levels in Bohol and Cebu and in other hard-hit areas as officials checked the integrity of school buildings.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 241 aftershocks have been recorded.
Solidum advised people affected by the quake to check their houses for structural damages.
“Our concern are the aftershocks. People should inspect their houses to make sure that the damages are not structural or no beams and columns were affected before they occupy the building,” he said.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said that the Department of Public Works and Highways will inspect all establishments, buildings and schools in places affected by the earthquake.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines created a disaster crisis committee and deployed soldiers and equipment in earthquake areas.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd said he will be visiting Bohol and other areas affected by the quake before he flies to South Korea on Thursday.
“I’ll be going to Bohol and Cebu tomorrow and, if possible other areas. And if the assessment is that there are a lot of things that are not being taken care of then we will reconsider the visit.
[But], as of this time, [all]things that have to be done are being done,” he told reporters.
Immediately after the quake, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) sent two rescue teams to assist in the clearing operations in Bohol and Cebu.
MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino personally deployed two eight-man teams to Tagbilaran in Bohol and Cebu City.
“The provincial government of Bohol and Cebu need all the help they could get to weather this calamity. We at the MMDA are more than willing to provide assistance in whatever way we can,” Tolentino said.
He said each team is equipped with extrication power tools, bolt cutters, chainsaws and trauma kit. They also carried body bags.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) released P10 million to its field office in Visayas to purchase relief goods for the families affected by the quake.
DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman said that the department has prepositioned 2,000 family food packs and 100 laminated sacks, which will be airlifted today to Cebu City using a C-130 plane of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Soliman said that the DSWD also activated and dispatched members of their Quick Response Teams to coordinate with local government units in assessing the impact of the 7.2 quake.
“We are awaiting reports from our QRT teams. Rest assured that DSWD has enough resources to address the needs of affected families, if any,” Soliman said.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña, who comes from Cebu, called on the public to pray for the people affected by the earthquake.
“Let us also pray for the safety of our fellow Cebuanos and Boho-lanos, who continue to experience strong aftershocks and who are now without power after the quake triggered a blackout in the affected provinces. This is a difficult time for our nation. I appeal to all sectors to set aside their differences and stop the dissonance that has sown discord between and among the
Filipino people. Let us work together to bring emergency assistance to the earthquake-hit provinces and to relieve the sufferings of our Visayan brothers and sisters,” he said in a statement.
British Ambassador designate to the Philippines Asif Ahmad expressed sympathies to the Philippine government.
The ambassador, in a statement, said there were no British nationals affected by the earthquake.
“Reports of the earthquake in Bohol and Cebu reached me as it happened this morning. I am saddened to hear of the loss of lives in the region and it will be some time before the full extent of the damage becomes known,” Ahmad said.
“Whilst there have been no reports of injury to Britons, this is a region that has proven to be hospitable to many British nationals over the years,” he added.
The Philippines lies on the so-called Ring of Fire, a vast Pacific Ocean region where many of Earth’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.
More than 100 people were left dead or missing in February last year after an earthquake struck on Negros island, about 100 kilometers from the epicenter of Tuesday’s quake.
The deadliest recorded natural disaster in the Philippines occurred in 1976, when a tsunami triggered by a 7.9-magnitude earthquake devastated the Moro Gulf on the southern island of Mindanao.
Between 5,000 and 8,000 people were killed, according to official estimates.
With reports from Bernice Camille Bauzon, Benjie Vergara, AFP and PNA