Shallow quake hits central Philippines

A shallow 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck the central Philippines Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, sending residents fleeing their homes, but there were no immediate reports of casualties. 

The quake struck southeast of Masbate Island in the Bicol region at 8:03 am (0003 GMT).

"There are a lot of damaged houses," said Staff Sergeant Antonio Clemente in Cataingan, a town on the impoverished Masbate Island several kilometres west of the epicentre in the Samar Sea. 

"It was really strong."

Homes in poor rural areas of the Philippines are often made from lightweight material such as wood.

The quake struck as the archipelago battles surging numbers of coronavirus cases, with restrictions on movement that vary across the country. 

In nearby Palanas town, police chief Captain Alvin Guerina told AFP that several patients, including a pregnant woman about to go into labour, were evacuated from a hospital as a precaution in case of aftershocks.

The USGS said there was a "low likelihood" of casualties or damage from the quake. 

"Recent earthquakes in this area have caused secondary hazards such as landslides and liquefaction that might have contributed to losses," it said.

In the city of Iloilo about 400 kilometres (250 miles) southwest of Masbate in the neighbouring Visayas region, residents ran out onto the streets.

"It was strong, dizzying," police Colonel Eric Dampal told AFP.

"Almost everyone inside buildings rushed to the streets. Up to now, they're still outside."

The Philippines is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

A 6.8-magnitude quake struck the southern island of Mindanao in December, killing at least three people, injuring dozens and damaging buildings. 

It hit as the island was still recovering from a string of deadly quakes in October.

Topics: earthquake , Philippines , US Geological Survey , Masbate Island
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