Quakes crack buildings, panic tourists in Philippine town

MANILA: Back-to-back earthquakes cracked small buildings and blocked roads with minor landslides Saturday in a Philippine resort province south of Manila where jittery tourists left and patients were evacuated from a hospital amid aftershocks.

Officials said an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.6 struck near Mabini town in Batangas province at midafternoon, followed shortly by a magnitude 6 quake, prompting many people to rush out of homes and beach resorts. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The quakes were felt in outlying regions, including in Manila, the capital, where people rushed out of some buildings and hotels in panic as the ground shook and chandeliers swayed.

"Our tourists left out of fear they may be affected by the earthquakes," Mayor Noel Luistro of Mabini, which is popular for diving and snorkeling, told DZMM radio network. "I need to declare a state of calamity."

Hundreds of villagers fled from their homes to higher ground, fearing a tsunami, although government seismologists did not declare any such threat.

A stone church was damaged, a house collapsed and minor landslides partially blocked some roads elsewhere in Batangas, where inter-island ferries were briefly stopped from venturing to sea at the start of the summer travel season as coast guard officials made sure there was no threat of a tsunami.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the first quake struck at a depth of 27 kilometres (17 miles), while the second was 24 kilometers (15 miles) deep. The US Geological Survey said both were about 42 kilometers (26 miles) deep.

The Philippines sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where earthquakes and volcanoes are common. A magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people on the northern island of Luzon in 1990.