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One dead in strong Philippine quake

07 february 2012, 10:13
Residents look at the damage caused by an earthquake. ©REUTERS/Stringer Philippines
Residents look at the damage caused by an earthquake. ©REUTERS/Stringer Philippines
A 6.8 earthquake struck off the coast of the central Philippines on Monday, killing at least one person and causing panic in cities where buildings shook, AFP reports citing authorities.

The quake hit 70 kilometres (44 miles) north of the city of Dumaguete on Negros Island at 11:49 am (0349 GMT) at a depth of 46 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

The Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) measured it as 6.9 at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres, centred off the heavily populated central island province of Negros and Cebu.

"One child was crushed to death by a collapsed wall in Negros," Office of Civil Defence chief Benito Ramos told AFP.

He said the violent shaking of buildings in Cebu city -- roughly 50 kilometres from where the quake struck -- led to broken windows and cracks on the walls, but no high rises were believed to have sustained major damage.

Philippine seismologists and local residents said there was panic in Cebu - the country's second biggest city with 2.3 million people -- but no immediate reports of casualties or major damage.

"I was having lunch when the ground shook. Water spilled from glasses and plates clanked. Some of the diners rushed outside, some of us stayed underneath the tables," Pedro Baldomino, a student in Cebu, told AFP by telephone.

He said he saw many office workers in downtown Cebu leaving their buildings after a public announcement on radio told the public to brace for expected aftershocks.

But Ramos said there was no need to reinforce emergency crews in Negros and Cebu because it appeared the damage was not widespread.

"Windows were broken and one small mall in Negros had cracks on its walls, but it wasn't that destructive," Ramos said, adding that it was felt in varying intensities in both islands.

"We are expecting aftershocks, but we have already advised the public about these," he said.

He also said that, apart from the lone fatality, there were no other immediate reports of injuries or casualties.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no danger of a widespread destructive tsunami.

But Phivolcs raised its tsunami warning to the second of a three-stop alert level for coastal areas in Negros, meaning the public is asked to stay away from beaches and "be watchful" for any signs of rising tides.

However level two does not warrant any evacuation.

Ramos said the chances of a tsunami or a tidal wave were very slim because the quake's epicentre was located on a narrow strait between two islands.

The Philippines sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" -- a belt around the Pacific Ocean where friction between shifting tectonic plates causes frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity.

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