Deaths, injuries reported as major earthquake jolts northern Philippines

BenarNews staff
2022.07.27
Manila
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Deaths, injuries reported as major earthquake jolts northern Philippines Boulders fall as a vehicle negotiates a road during a major earthquake in Bauko, Mountain Province, Philippines, July 27, 2022.
Harley Palangchao/AP

Updated at 4:37 p.m. ET on 2022-07-27

At least five people were killed and dozens more injured when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck in the northern Philippines on Wednesday, leaving widespread destruction, according to officials and media reports.

The temblor caused heavy damage to many homes, buildings and infrastructure in Abra, a province in the far north of Luzon Island and the epicenter of the quake, local media reports said. The tremors could be felt as far away as Manila.

When the quake struck on Wednesday morning, panicked people fled as they evacuated buildings in Abra and other parts of Luzon, including from the Senate building in Metro Manila.

“This strong earthquake shocked many of my beloved Abreños and caused damages to many households and establishments,” said Ching Bernos, a member of the House of Representatives who represents Abra. 

“I urge everyone to stay alert and to prioritize safety in light of the possibilities of aftershocks that might be felt after that strong earthquake.”

According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, the earthquake struck at a shallow depth of 25 kilometers near the town of Lagangilang. The institute revised down the force of the temblor to 7.0 from a magnitude of 7.3 that it had reported earlier.

The United States Geological Survey said the quake occurred in the northwestern part of Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. 

Disaster relief officials in Manila said one person was killed when he was hit by falling debris at a construction site in the town of La Trinidad in northern Benguet province. 

Three others were killed elsewhere, but officials did not elaborate how. They also said sixty people were injured, although some had been sent home already. 

Bernardo Rafaelito Alejandro, deputy chief of operations for the Office of Civil Defense, said a fifth person was killed in Gataran town, Cagayan province, but the country’s national disaster agency said it had yet to verify that information.

Some heritage sites in Abra and the city of Vigan, including several turn-of-the-century churches and homes, were also badly damaged by Wednesday’s quake.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who hails from the far-northern part of Luzon, said he had been monitoring the situation and immediately dispatched the military and other emergency services to the affected areas. 

“I am staying away from going to affected areas for the very simple reason that when national officers come to affected areas, we disrupt the work of local officials,” Marcos told a news conference in Manila.

“We are hoping it will not rain. There might be a greater danger of landslides. I hope it doesn’t rain at least in the next two days,” Marcos said, adding it was not necessary to declare a national emergency just yet. 

“Despite the saddening news of the damage caused by the earthquake, we would like to assure you of the quick response to the needs of our citizens affected by this disaster,” Marcos said.

When the quake struck, the president was at his office and saw the chandelier swaying. “It was very strong, stronger than usual,” he said.

earthquakeAbra_philippines04-01.jpg

In Mountain province, a Filipino news photographer, Harley Palangchao, was traveling on a highway downhill with companions in two vans when they heard thundering sounds and saw an avalanche of boulders tumbling ahead of them from a towering mountain, the Associated Press reported.

According to AP, the 44-year-old was sitting in the front seat of one of the vans, when he raised his camera and photographed the scene, thinking it could be his last photo as his van averted disaster. Palangchao took the picture published at the top of this report.

“I was thinking there should be at least a record if something happened to us,” the photojournalist told AP. “It was a horrific experience.”

Meanwhile, several houses and infrastructures in different locations on Luzon were severely damaged, the Philippine Red Cross said on Facebook. The NGO’s Abra Chapter emergency medical team “ushered patients and staff of the Abra Provincial Hospital to safety this morning” after the quake and were later assisted back to their rooms, the Red Cross said. 

Abra-devastation.jpeg
Commuters pass a building damaged by a major earthquake in Abra province, northern Philippines, July 27, 2022. [Handout photo from National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council]

The Philippines sits on the so-called Pacific Rim of Fire, where earthquakes are frequent due to shifting tectonic plates in the ocean’s basin, according to seismologists. Some of the tremors have been devastating.

In the past 50 years, more than 15 destructive earthquakes have hit the Philippines – with four major seismic events of magnitudes greater than 6.5 occurring in November-December 2019 alone, according to experts.

Luzon Island was hit by a 6.1-magnitude quake in April 2019, causing about 100 buildings to crumble and killing at least 16 people. Eight months later, a 6.9-magnitude temblor shook large parts of southern Mindanao Island, killing at least five people and injuring dozens.

One of the strongest tremors to hit the Philippines in recent years occurred in 1990 when a 7.8-magnitude quake caused buildings and hotels to collapse in the northern city of Baguio, killing more than 2,400 people.

Camille Elemia, Luis Liwanag and Jojo Riñoza contributed to this report from Manila. 

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