At least 93 people have been reported dead after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit the central Philippines.
The quake happened at 08:12 (00:12 GMT) on a national holiday. The US Geological Survey said it struck below the island of Bohol, where officials reported most casualties.
People were also killed in the province of Cebu.
Historic churches were among the many damaged buildings, and stampedes were reported in two cities.
At least 69 of those confirmed dead were from Bohol, according to reports citing disaster management officials.
Fifteen people are known to have been killed in Cebu, and another was reported dead on the neighbouring island of Siquijor.
Dozens of others are also being treated for injuries.
Search and rescue operations are being conducted, with rescuers finding themselves hampered by damaged roads.
At least five people died when part of a fishing port collapsed in Cebu, and two others were also reported dead when a roof fell at a market.
At least three people also died during a stampede at a sports complex in Cebu, provincial disaster chief Neil Sanchez said.
"There was panic when the quake happened and there was a rush toward the exit," he told AFP.
The tremor triggered power cuts in parts of Bohol, Cebu and neighbouring areas, say reports citing the country's disaster management agency.
Officials from Bohol and Cebu have declared a state of emergency in their respective provinces, local media say.
An official from the government agency which monitors earthquake activity was quoted as saying that this was the strongest tremor felt in the area in the last 23 years.
President Benigno Aquino is expected to visit the affected areas on Wednesday.
Edgardo Chatto, the governor of Bohol, said a city hall building was damaged on the island.
Heavy damage to roads, bridges and historic churches, some dating back to the Spanish colonial period in the 1500s and the 1600s, was also reported in Bohol and Cebu.
British man David Venables, who has lived in Cebu for seven years, said it was the strongest quake he had experienced.
"It's a very strange and frightening experience when the very foundations of the house and surrounding area shake uncontrollably," he said.
Bonita Cabiles, a resident of Mandaue city in Cebu, told the BBC she was woken up when she felt the ground rumbling.
She said there was a lot of structural damage in the area, including to the bell tower of the Santo Nino church in Cebu, one of the most well-known churches in the country.
It was fortunate that it was a national holiday and the students were not in school, she said.
There were reports of aftershocks following the quake.
The Philippine Red Cross said in a statement that they had mobilised staff and volunteers to affected areas.
Cebu province, with a population of more than 2.6 million, is about an hour away by plane from Manila.
Neighbouring Bohol, a favourite of
tourists because of its sandy beaches, is a short boat ride away
Ishmael Narag, officer in charge of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs)’s Seismology Division, said there might be a new fault system in the province, especially after they learned that the quake’s epicenter was not in Carmen but near Sagbayan.
“Initially when we plotted the earthquake, (the epicenter) was found in the interior of Bohol. The identified active fault at that time was the East Bohol fault. With (data from the) cluster of aftershocks, (we were able to) relocate the epicenter of the earthquake north (of the province),” he said.
In Phivolcs updated earthquake bulletin, the 7.2-magnitude tremor that hit Bohol Tuesday morning has been listed with an epicenter southwest of Sagbayan instead of the original two kilometers southeast of Carmen.
Narag explained that the epicenter is a “very big area” where the earthquake emanates from.
“The epicenter, by definition, is where the fault begins to rupture. The rupture has a direction. We believe that its predominant direction is toward Cebu island,” he said, adding it was also probably why the earthquake was strongly felt in Cebu.
“It is really difficult to locate active faults, especially in these areas underlain by limestone. Because limestone changes in form, especially when it rains…it is easily dissolved in water…so evidence of rupture due to movement of an active fault is erased. It’s difficult to map,” he added.
Narag said they are not yet concluding
anything but will further study the possibility of a new fault
system in Bohol.
Experts warn that many parts of the Philippines—including the nation's densely-populated capital—are long overdue for major earthquakes, and we can't entirely be sure where the next big one will strike.
But one thing is for certain: it's only a matter of time.
Mario Aurelio, Laboratory Head of the Structural Geology and Tectonics of the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS) laments the lack of comprehensive knowledge about the country's numerous geologic faults.
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that shook Central Visayas on October 15 was a relatively rare event, Aurelio notes, but other parts of the country are also due for similar quakes.
“Bohol and Cebu earthquakes have been relatively rare, considering that the entire Philippine archipelago is earthquake-prone except for Palawan,” said Mario Aurelio, Laboratory Head of the Structural Geology and Tectonics of the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences (NIGS).
“('Yung Bohol at Cebu) hindi naman kasing active ng mga considered na very active faults tulad ng sa Siargao and Zambales,” said Ric Mangao, research specialist from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).
On Wednesday, Phivolcs said that a newly-discovered fault might be the source of the Visayas earthquake.
Phivolcs identified the quake's real epicenter as being located between the municipality of Catigbian and Sagbayan in Bohol, and not in the town of Carmen, as was previously thought.
However, Aurelio said that immediately associating the recent earthquake in Bohol with an underlying fault is still a tentative hypothesis. He said that there are many unidentified faults in the Bohol region and elsewhere, which makes the identification of the origin of the earthquake “a little bit tricky”.
As a parallel example, he cited the 7.7-magnitude earthquake in Northern Luzon in 1990. There were no recorded faults in the area when this quake hit, killing 1,621 people across the region.
Moreover, Phivolcs' reassessment of the quake's epicenter coincides with initial data from the US Geological Survey (USGS): in its summary page for the Bohol quake, the agency located the epicenter at 2km northeast of Catigbian.
“'Yung mga aftershock lumalabas sa East Bohol Fault,” said Mangao.
Fate of old churches, other buildings
Old churches and shrines in Bohol were not designed to be earthquake-proof.
“Assuming that churches in Bohol were done through sound construction practices, the damage were done not because of material but because (of the) design,” Aurelio said.
Old churches don't have rebars, the metal skeletons that serve as the foundation of a structure and hold it together. Instead, they were built by piling blocks of limestone, one on top of another.
Restoring the churches in Bohol
will take years, according to heritage documentation
specialist Joel Aldor in a GMA News TV report.
Earlier this year, Phivolcs director Renato Solidum warned that many buildings, particularly in the nation's densely-populated capital, remain unassessed for physical integrity in the event of strong earthquakes.
“The issue though is some of the buildlings are non-engineered and most likely walang permit so they have to focus on that also,” he said.
Major lifelines like water and power supply, and communication means, should be strengthened to withstand fires and earthquakes.
Active fault line under Metro Manila
Meanwhile, hidden under Metro Manila is the West Valley fault line, which experts also believe is long overdue for a large quake.
"Ripe na gumalaw ang fault. Napakataas ng probability na gumalaw ito in the future, hindi lang natin masabi ang exact date and time," Phivolcs deputy director Bartolome Bautista said during a Senate inquiry on the country's disaster preparedness on Wednesday.
The earthquake fault runs from the Sierra Madre mountain range to Tagaytay, and moves every 200 to 400 years. The last time this fault moved was 200 years ago.
Phivolcs presented the prediction in July this year, warning Metro Manila that this quake is due to happen within our lifetimes.
Solidum said that preparations for the next large quake are of paramount importance.
Unlike storms and typhoons, earthquakes cannot be “forecast” and can only be predicted by looking at how often it happens in history. To date, there are no scientific instruments that can predict when an earthquake will occur.
A 7.2-magnitude earthquake, as
was seen in Bohol, can shake the ground even a hundred
kilometers away, meaning a tremor in Metro Manila can affect
surrounding provinces. — TJD, GMA News
MANILA, Philippines—The number of people killed in the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Bohol and other areas in Central Visayas rose to 159 Thursday afternoon, police said.
In a text advisory at around 3 p.m., Police Chief Superintendent Danilo Constantino, Police Regional Office 7 director, said that of the total number of fatalities, 149 were from Bohol, nine in Cebu and one in Siquijor.
The number of the injured, meanwhile, was placed at 302.
Earlier reports quoting the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said, however, that the number of fatalities stood at148. It listed 374 injured victims.
For his part, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said in a radio interview that President Benigno Aquino III wanted concerned authorities to ensure that assistance will be extended to families affected by the quake.
“Kahapon ang pinakagusto siguraduhin ng Pangulo unang-una yung tulong para sa ating mga kababayan sa pagkain, sa gamot sa pagkalinga sa kanila,” Roxas said.
(Yesterday the President wanted to ensure that there are enough food and medicines for quake victims.)
He also said engineers from the Department of Public Works and Highways and Philippine Association of Structural Engineers and Civil Engineers have been sent to check the structural integrity of all establishments in Bohol, especially establishments being used by evacuees such as hospitals, gymnasiums, schools, and evacuation centers, among others.
Social media has lit up with earthquake rumours after a giant oarfish washed up on a California beach - the second such discovery in several days.
The 4.3m (14ft) dead snake-like fish was found in the city of Oceanside - five days after another and larger specimen (5.5m) had been found.
Reports on social media recall an ancient Japanese myth linking extremely rare oarfish sightings to tremors.
But scientists remain sceptical of any link to increased tectonic activity.
They remain puzzled, however, by the two discoveries of this rare deepwater fish near the beach.
The larger specimen, found on Santa Catalina island, has now been dissected and it appears well-fed, healthy and with little sign of disease.
"It looks good enough to eat - if you have a 13ft pan," biologist Ruff Zetter said.
Tests are also being done for radiation, following Japan's Fukushima nuclear leak on the other side of the Pacific.
But it is also a rare chance to gather information about a little-known species that hovers vertically in the ocean and grazes on passing proteins.
The elusive fish - which can grow up
to 15m - dives to depth of up to 1,000m and is found in all
temperate to tropical waters.