6 killed as strong earthquake strikes southern Philippines

SURIGAO, Philippines (AP) — A powerful nighttime earthquake in the southern Philippines killed at least six people and injured more than 120, with officials combing through cracked buildings and nearby towns Saturday to check on the damage and other possible casualties.

The magnitude 6.7 quake roused residents from their sleep late Friday in Surigao del Norte province, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes.

The quake was centered about 8 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Surigao at a relatively shallow depth of 6 miles, said Renato Solidum of the Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology.

Nearly 100 aftershocks have been felt, officials said. Evacuation centers accommodated wary residents overnight.

However, many returned home Saturday, Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said, adding that officials were continuing to assess the damage in Surigao and outlying towns.

Provincial information officer Mary Jul Escalante was being interviewed by ABS-CBN TV network when another aftershock struck. “Oh sir, there’s an aftershock,” she said. “I’m shaking, we have a phobia now.”

At least six people were killed, mostly after being struck by falling debris and concrete walls, provincial disaster-response official Gilbert Gonzales said.

At least 126 others were injured in Surigao, where the quake knocked out power and forced the closure of the domestic airport due to deep cracks in its runway, officials said.

Several buildings, including a state college, a hotel and a shopping mall, were damaged in the city, located about 430 miles southeast of Manila. Surigao was placed under a state of calamity to allow faster release of emergency funds, provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Anthony Maghari said by phone.