People gather near debris that collapsed and blocked a road after a quake hit Pampanga province, the Philippines, on April 22 2019, in this photo obtained from social media. Picture: REUTERS/ALLAN BELLEZA
People gather near debris that collapsed and blocked a road after a quake hit Pampanga province, the Philippines, on April 22 2019, in this photo obtained from social media. Picture: REUTERS/ALLAN BELLEZA

Porac — Philippine rescuers scrambled on Tuesday to reach people feared buried under a building near Manila that collapsed a day earlier in an earthquake, as a new tremor hit the nation.

The US Geological Survey put the fresh quake on the central island of Samar at 6.3 magnitude, which is stronger than the one that hit close to the capital in the north on Monday.

Authorities were assessing possible damage from the latest quake, which struck at a depth of 70km, but warned that residents should expect aftershocks.

The worst of Monday’s damage was in the province of Pampanga, which was the site of most of the 11 fatalities, disaster officials said. More than 100 others were injured by falling rubble, including in Manila, according to police.

The toll could rise as crews fanned out across the mostly rural region to assess damage in isolated hamlets that lost power and communications in one of the area’s strongest tremors in years.

More than 400 aftershocks have been registered since the initial quake, Philippine seismologists said.

Scores of rescuers in the town of Porac were using cranes and jackhammers to peel back the pancaked concrete structure of a four-storey market building where the Red Cross said 24 people were unaccounted for.

“Every every second is critical in this rescue,” Cris Palcis, a volunteer sniffer dog handler, said. “Time is short for the people under the rubble so we have to be quick.”

Pampanga governor Lilia Pineda told journalists that rescuers could still hear at least one person trapped beneath the rubble.

The quake damaged several centuries-old churches which were crowded with worshippers in recent days as the majority-Catholic Philippines marked the Easter holiday.

Buildings sway

Catholic priest Father Roland Moraleja, who is based in Porac, said the 18th century belfry of St Catherine of Alexandria church collapsed in the quake. “It was the only part left from the old church,” he said. “The historical value is now gone, but we are hopeful that it will rise again.”

High-rise buildings in the capital swayed after the tremor struck Monday evening, leaving some with large cracks in their walls.

Thousands of travellers were stranded after aviation authorities shut down the secondary Clark Airport, which is located on the site of the former US military base north of the capital.

The quake was centred on the town of Castillejos, about 100km northwest of Manila, local geologists said. Seismologists put the Monday’ tremor at 6.3 initially, but subsequently downgraded it to a 6.1 magnitude.

AFP