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A church destroyed by the quake

Death toll from Philippines quake at 107

Manila, October 16, 2013

The death toll from a Philippine earthquake rose to 107 on Wednesday, as rescuers dug through the rubble of a church and a hospital in search of more victims.

At least 23 people are missing, some under a collapsed public hospital, church and a home in the town of Loon on Bohol island, 630 km (390 miles) south of the capital, Manila.

Close to 3 million people were affected by the quake, which caused landslides and widespread damage to infrastructure in the popular tourist destinations of Bohol and nearby Cebu. The number of people injured in the quake climbed towards 280.

The national disaster agency said at least 97 of the dead were in Bohol, which took the brunt of Tuesday's earthquake of magnitude 7.2. Officials feared the toll would rise further as communications with damaged villages were re-established.

"I think this is a growing number," Loon mayor Lloyd Lopez told Philippine radio. "Yesterday we had a partial communications block-out."

At least a third of the Bohol deaths were in Loon, a town of about 43,000 people. Among them was a schoolgirl whose body was found late on Tuesday under the rubble of a collapsed high school in the adjacent town of Maribojoc.

"We have not reached all barangays (villages), many are cut off, the roads are blocked by big boulders," Lopez said.

Another nine people were killed on Cebu and one on Siquijor island, the disaster agency said.

Many of the millions hit by the quake spent the night outdoors, including patients at some hospitals in Cebu, because of aftershocks. More than 840 aftershocks have been recorded, with one of magnitude 5.1, the volcanology agency said.

"There are so many aftershocks, we are afraid," Elena Manuel, a 64-year-old grandmother, told Reuters after her family and neighbors spent the night in the grounds of a centuries-old church that collapsed in Loon.

"We don't have any more food and water because stores are closed, and the bridge ... is damaged. After the quake, water and mud came out of cracks on the ground in our backyard."

Officials said 18 of the 20 damaged bridges in Bohol were impassable, while four roads in the province were still closed. Seventeen churches, many of them centuries old, suffered irreparable damage to their old coral-stone structures.

"The church here is now only powder," said Benjamin Aggenstein, a 30-year-old German businessman based in Bohol, adding that most residents of Loon did not want to return to their damaged homes and had been staying outdoors.

Ferry and airline services have resumed despite damage to ports and airports in Bohol and Cebu, where the belfry of the country's oldest church collapsed.

The air force was flying 11 tonnes (25,000 lbs) of relief supplies to Bohol residents, a military spokesman said.

President Benigno Aquino, who made an aerial inspection of quake-hit areas in Bohol before visiting Cebu, warned of stiff penalties for profiteers exploiting the disaster to hike prices.

The government has declared a state of calamity in both Bohol and Cebu, triggering a freeze on prices there.

Tourism in both places was also hurt by the quake.

Some visitors to Bohol have cancelled reservations, but damage to tourism is likely to be short-lived, John Patrick Chan, corporate general manager of the Bellevue Hotel group, said in a television interview. - Reuters




Tags: Quake | Philippines | Toll |

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