MANILA, Philippines -- A strong earthquake jolted the central Philippines on Tuesday, killing at least one person, injuring dozens, and damaging houses, two buildings used for coronavirus quarantine, bridges and a port.
A three-story house collapsed in the coastal town of Cataingan as the ground shook. A retired police officer pinned in the debris died, and rescuers were looking for other members of his family who were missing. More than 40 people were injured by the quake in Masbate province, according to disaster response officials.
More than 100 people who were undergoing coronavirus quarantine in two damaged Cataingan government buildings were moved to school buildings to ensure their safety, the Office of Civil Defense said. The quake also damaged roads, bridges and a port.
“People should avoid returning immediately to damaged structures,” Rino Revalo, a Masbate provincial administrator, told the ABS-CBN network.
The 6.6 magnitude quake hit about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Cataingan at a depth of about 21 kilometers (13 miles), the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.
Cataingan resident Isagani Libatan said he was on his way to his aunt’s house for breakfast when his motorcycle suddenly swerved as the ground heaved.
“I thought it was my tire but people suddenly streamed out in panic from swaying houses and then we lost power,” Libatan said by telephone, pausing as he felt a fairly strong aftershock.
The earthquake was set off by a movement of the Philippine Fault, said Renato Solidum, who heads the government volcanology institute. It was felt in several provinces across the central Visayas region.
The Philippines lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur. It is also lashed by about 20 typhoons and tropical storms each year, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.
A magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in the northern Philippines in 1990.