World

At least 11 dead in Philippines earthquake, more feared buried

At least 11 people were killed when a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck the Philippines' main island of Luzon Monday and officials feared dozens could be trapped in the rubble of a collapsed commercial building.

Quake happened on main island of Luzon, causing buildings to sway and collapse

Wearing protective helmets, employees evacuate their office building following an earthquake in Manila Monday. (Aaron Favila/Associated Press)

At least 11 people were killed when a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck the Philippines' main island of Luzon Monday and officials feared dozens could be trapped in the rubble of a collapsed commercial building.

The quake hit 60 kilometres northwest of the capital, Manila, disrupting air, rail and road transport and causing some damage to buildings and infrastructure.

The province of Pampanga was worst hit. Eleven people were killed and about 20 injured, provincial governor Lilia Pineda said by telephone, citing information from disaster officials.

Rescuers were using heavy duty equipment and search dogs to try to reach people trapped after a four-storey building went down, crushing the ground-floor supermarket, she said. Four bodies have been pulled from the rubble. It's feared dozens more are still buried. 

People are feared trapped inside a small collapsed building at Porac town, Pampanga province, northern Philippines Monday. (Vhic Y Naluz/Associated Press)

"They can be heard crying in pain," she said of those trapped. "It won't be easy to rescue them."

Authorities inserted a large orange tube into the rubble to blow in oxygen in the hope of helping people still pinned there to breathe. On Tuesday morning, rescuers pulled out a man alive, sparking cheers and applause.

"We're all very happy, many clapped their hands in relief because we're still finding survivors after several hours," Porac Councilor Maynard Lapid told The Associated Press by telephone from the scene, adding another victim was expected to be pulled out alive soon.

The quake was initially reported as being of 6.3 magnitude and later revised down to 6.1 magnitude, the U.S. Geological Survey and Philippines seismology authorities said.

The Philippines is prone to natural disasters, located on the seismically active Pacific "Ring of Fire," a horse-shoe shaped band of volcanoes and fault lines that circles the edges of the Pacific Ocean. It is also hit by an average 20 typhoons a year, bringing heavy rains that trigger deadly landslides.

Rescuers carry a victim pulled from a collapsed building to a waiting ambulance. (Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)

Mayor Condralito Dela Cruz of Porac town, Pampanga, said rescuers pulled two survivors from the collapsed building, where other trapped people could be heard screaming for help as rescuers struggled to save them.

An Associated Press photographer saw a third survivor and the body of a woman being extricated by rescuers from the rubble late Monday. The rescue work picked up pace after four cranes arrived at the scene, where Red Cross volunteers, police and soldiers helped out.

A child was one of two dead people pulled out from the rubble earlier in the day. The leg of one of the two survivors had to be amputated to extricate him, Porac Councillor Maynard Lapid said, adding that at least eight trapped people could be heard pleading for help at one point.

"One of the trapped was seen waving for help from behind a glass window but we cannot see him now," Lapid told The Associated Press by telephone.

A rescuer searches for survivors in the rubble of a commercial building. (Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)

Pampanga's international airport at Clark, a former U.S. military base, was closed and scores of flights were cancelled after damage to parts of the facility including check-in areas.

Large cracks appeared on provincial roads and electricity poles were felled.

Rescue teams in Manila were preparing to reinforce efforts to reach people trapped in Pampanga. The government urged people to be calm as rumours of greater death and destruction gained traction online.

"We urge them to refrain from spreading disinformation in social media that may cause undue alarm, panic and stress," said presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

The St. Catherine church in Porac town was damaged in the quake. (Vhic Y Naluz/Associated Press)

In Manila, the quake, which happened shortly after 5 p.m. local time, caused tall buildings to sway for several minutes in the main business districts.

"We got nervous, we got dizzy. I ran downstairs with three kids," said Arlene Puno, a domestic helper in a high-rise apartment in the Makati financial centre.

Elevated rail services were halted and workers were evacuated from offices and condominiums, sending a flood of people onto sidewalks and into bus queues and adding more chaos to roads that are among the world's most congested.

Mark Genesis Samodio, 23, a maintenance worker at a Makati condominium in the capital, said the quake's impact was unusual, even for a city that has grown used to them.

"I was sitting down, then it shook so strong I thought I was being rocked in a cradle," he said. 

With files from The Associated Press