Eight people were killed and more than 60 were hurt when two powerful earthquakes, just hours apart, struck the Philippines’ northernmost province early yesterday morning.
The first tremor, of magnitude 5.4, struck Batanes, a group of sparsely populated islets north of the main island of Luzon, at 4am.
A second, stronger quake – recorded at magnitude 5.9 – then struck at 7.30am. Both were at relatively shallow depths.
Mr Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said in a bulletin that eight people died.
“They were hit by rubble and debris, not buried,” he told reporters.
The hardest hit was Itbayat, an island town with a population of close to 3,000 that is closer to Taiwan’s southernmost tip than to Luzon.
Mr Obet Nico, a village watchman in Itbayat, told CNN Philippines that he was with two guests when the first quake struck.
“It didn’t last long, and it wasn’t really that strong. But there were rocks falling near us,” he said. But when the second, stronger tremor hit, many of the old houses, weakened by the first quake, collapsed.
As the quake jolted Batanes, thousands were roused from their sleep during pre-dawn earthquake drills all around metropolitan Manila.
Mr Renato Solidum, a prominent seismologist and disaster-response expert, said the Batanes quake helped officials underscore the fact that a disaster could strike any time.