New quake strikes as Philippines hunts for survivors, Latest World News - The New Paper

New quake strikes as Philippines hunts for survivors

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New tremor of 6.4 magnitude hits island of Samar, a day after Monday's quake

PORAC, PHILIPPINES : Philippine rescuers were scrambling to reach some two dozen people feared buried under a building near Manila that collapsed a day earlier in a strong earthquake, as a powerful new tremor hit the nation yesterday.

The US Geological Survey put the fresh quake on the central island of Samar at 6.4 magnitude, which is stronger than the one that hit close to the capital in the north on Monday.

The authorities were assessing damage from the latest quake and warned that residents should expect aftershocks. Concrete roads and bridges sustained cracks, and there were also reports of power outage.

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 the rescue workers 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 minute, every second is critical in this rescue," Mr 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, but the digging was proceeding delicately to avoid accidentally crushing the survivor.

Monday's quake also damaged several centuries-old churches, which were crowded with worshippers in recent days as the Philippines marked the Easter holiday.

Father Roland Moraleja, who is based in Porac, said the 18th-century belfry of Saint 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."

Thousands of travellers were stranded after aviation authorities shut down Clark Airport. Officials are still assessing the heavy damage to the terminal building and some cracking on the air traffic control tower.

The first quake was centred on the town of Castillejos, about 100km north-west of Manila.

Seismologists put Monday's tremor at 6.3 initially but subsequently downgraded it to a 6.1 magnitude. - AFP