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Strong quake kills 2, injures dozens in northern Philippines

Strong quake kills 2, injures dozens in northern Philippines
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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A powerful earthquake killed at least two people and injured dozens in northern Philippines on Wednesday, where the tremor triggered small landslides and damaged buildings and churches, prompting frightened crowds and hospital patients in the capital to rush outside.

The magnitude 7 quake was concentrated in a mountainous region in the hard-hit province of Abra, said Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

“The ground shook like I was standing on a swing and suddenly the lights went out. We stormed out of the office and I heard screams and some of my companions were in tears,” said Michael Brillantes, a security officer for the Abra town of Lagangilang, near the epicenter.

“It was the strongest earthquake I’ve ever felt and I thought the ground would open up,” Brillantes told The Associated Press via cellphone.

A villager died when he was hit by falling cement slabs at his home in Abra, where at least 25 others were injured and mostly hospitalized, officials said.

A construction worker was hit by debris and died in the strawberry-growing mountain town of La Trinidad, in Benguet province, where some roads were blocked by landslides and debris. Five people were injured when rocks and debris struck their SUV and a truck on a hillside road in the Mountain Province near Benguet, officials said.

Many houses and buildings had cracked walls, including some that collapsed in Abra where they were new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.who took office less than a month ago, planned to travel to meet victims and local officials.

The Red Cross released an image of a small three-storey building leaning precariously towards a rubble-covered street in Abra. Video taken by a panicked witness showed parts of an old stone church tower being peeled off and then falling onto a hillside in a cloud of dust.

Patients, some in wheelchairs, and medical staff were evacuated from at least two hospitals in Manila, about 300 kilometers (200 miles) south of Lagangilang, but were later told to return after engineers found only a few minor cracks in walls.

The magnitude of the earthquake was downgraded from the initial magnitude of 7.3 after further analysis. The quake was triggered by movement in a local fault at a depth of 25 kilometers (15 miles), the institute said, adding it expected damage and more aftershocks.

The US Geological Survey measured the earthquake’s magnitude as 7.0 and depth as 10 kilometers (6 miles). Shallower tremors tend to deal more damage.

The Philippines lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur. It is also hit by about 20 typhoons and tropical storms each year, making it one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.

A 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck the northern Philippines in 1990, killing nearly 2,000 people.

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Associated Press journalists Joeal Calupitan and Aaron Favila contributed to this report.

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