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2 dead in Eastern Visayas quake

By: AP with reports from Cayubit Restituto and Nestor Abrematea

A strong, shallow earthquake shook Eastern Visayas yesterday, killing at least two people, injuring dozens of people, knocking out power in some areas, and sending villagers fleeing from their homes, officials said.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 6.5 and struck at a depth of 6.5 kilometers in Leyte.

Seismologists measured the depth at just two kilometers and said it was felt strongest in Kananga and Jaro, Leyte.

Shallow earthquakes generally cause more damage on the Earth’s surface.

A two-story commercial building collapsed in Kananga, killing one person whose identity has yet to be established. Scores were injured.

At least five persons remained trapped and rescue operations were under way, according to Kananga Vice Mayor Elmer Codilla.

Codilla said two of the trapped persons managed to send text messages to their relatives.

The collapsed building housed a grocery store and a beauty parlor on the ground floor.

Thousands of residents, office workers, and students fled from homes, buildings, and schools and some were knocked over as the ground shook.

The other confirmed fatality was from Ormoc City, about 30 kilometers from Kananga.

Ormoc Mayor Richard Gomez identified the fatality as 18-year-old Rizza Rosales whose house was buried following a landslide in Cabaon-An, one of two mountain barangays.

Gomez said at least 29 people were injured, including 16 who were taken to a hospital because they had slight injuries or were traumatized, according to Gomez.

The strong shaking caused cracks in some buildings and roads in the city and power was automatically shut off, Gomez said.

Operation at the airport was suspended after cracks formed at the runway, according to Gomez.

Two highways were damaged but remained passable, he said.

Leyte Gov. Dominic Petilla said the epicenter of the quake was near the geothermal plant supplying power in most of the Visayas.

Cristine Quiapo, a plant employee, said damage was visible.

She said some of the roads going to and from the plant were not passable. “Pero nakauwi rin po kami sa aming bahay,” she narrated.

Danica Isidro, an employee of a sugar milling company in Kananga, said they were told to go home amid the panic and confusion.

“Yung anak ko nga po hinimatay, matapos makarinig ng sigaw ng tsunami,” Isidro said.

Her daughter is a student of Western Leyte College whose campus is near the sea shore.

Delia Vilbar, the treasurer of Ormoc, said she was attending a meeting on the second floor of City Hall when the earthquake struck.

“It was very strong, and the building was shaking,” she said. “I sat down while others in the room went under the table.”

When she went outside to the street, she saw people crying and embracing each other, she said.

The quake struck in a region that was devastated in November 2013 by typhoon “Yolanda” (international name “Haiyan”) which whipped up huge waves that left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, leveled entire villages, and displaced more than five million villagers.

The Philippines sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where earthquakes and volcanoes are common. A magnitude-7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in Northern Luzon in 1990.