Magnitude 7 quake hits northern Philippines

A magnitude 7 earthquake rocked the northwestern part of the main island of Luzon in the Philippines early Wednesday morning, according to the US Geolological Survey, damaging buildings and halting train operations in Manila, the capital where the tremors were also felt.  

There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths from the quake, which struck about 13 kilometers southeast of the town of Dolores in Abra province at a depth of 10 km, the US agency said on its website.  

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported at least six aftershocks ranging from magnitude 2.1 to 4 in Abra and Ilocos Sur.  

Several ancient bell towers, churches and heritage houses, as well as cars and other properties got damaged by the quake, Senator Imee R. Marcos, who is from Ilocos Norte, said in a statement, citing unnamed sources.  

Several main roads including Kennon, Paraiso, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte and Apayao were also damaged, while much of the area did not have power after electrical transformers and transmission lines were hit, she added.  

She urged police and the local disaster agency “to remain vigilant as aftershocks and storm surges or tsunamis are expected to follow.” “If necessary, preventive evacuation of coastal villages and landslide-prone zones should be undertaken swifly.”  

Since 1970, 11 other earthquakes of magnitude 6.5 or larger have occurred within 250 km of Wednesday’s earthquake, the USGS said.  

The largest of these earthquakes was a magnitude 7.7 earthquake on July 16, 1990 in Baguio City in Benguet province, where at least 1,600 people died and more than 3,000 were hurt, it added. 

The 1990 earthquake also caused landslides in the Baguio-Cabanatuan-Dagupan area. 

The Wednesday quake was also felt in the capital region, where several buildings were evacuated and the rail system was halted during rush hour. 

“Any earthquake at magnitude 7 is considered a major earthquake,” Renato Solidum, head of the state seismology agency, told a news briefing streamed live on Facebook. 

More aftershocks are expected in the next two days, he said. “Strong intensities are still possible.” 

“I urge everyone to stay alert and to prioritize safety in light of the possibilities of aftershocks that might be felt after that strong earthquake,” Abra Rep. Ching B. Bernos said in a statement. “We are monitoring the situation on the ground and gathering information on the  extent of the damage to the province.”

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. will only visit areas “where his presence is necessary,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles told a news briefing. “Let’s make an assessment first.” 

The Philippines lies in the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a belt of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes strike. — Norman P. Aquino, Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and Matthew Carl L. Montecillo