The 6.9-magnitude earthquake that hit the central Philippines on Monday left at least 53 people either dead or missing and other residents fleeing after a tsunami alert was issued, the Associated Press reported.
Update: The Philippine Star is now reporting that Filipino disaster relief officials say the death toll from the quake has risen to at least 43 people. A majority of those killed, 29, died in a land slide that struck Guihulngan City in the province of Negros Oriental, The Star said, citing Col. Francisco Zosimo Patrimonio Jr, commander of an Army brigade.
The quake struck in a narrow strait just off Negros Island in the late morning, causing at least 13 deaths. Forty people are still believed to be missing. Rescuers, including army troops and police, have been digging through rubble and collapsed homes for those believed to be trapped.
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"Their situation is bad because if you are covered by landslide for one hour, two hours, how can you breathe?" Mayor Ernesto Reyes said, the AP reported. "But we just hope for the best, that there are still survivors."
In the village of Planas there were around 30 houses buried, Gov. Roel Degamo said, leaving many people trapped, the Wall Street Journal reported. According to Degamo eight bridges were also damaged, which could complicate rescue efforts and disrupt the agriculture-driven economy. The initial tsunami warning was canceled, but the aftershocks that struck worsened the situation in many areas.
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One of the aftershocks registered a magnitude of 6.2 at the epicenter, many hours after the quake hit, the BBC reported. Many houses and buildings collapsed due to landslides.
The quake caused panic in nearby cities in the Negros and Cebu region, with people rushing out of schools, malls and offices. Some areas suspended work and classes, the BBC reported.
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