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Dozens are feared dead after quake in Philippines

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 8th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Many fear that dozens of people have been killed in a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in the Philippines. Rescue workers are combing through landslides and toppled buildings on the heavily populated islands of Negros and Cebu.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Officials in Manila have put the death toll at 15, but rescue coordinators and local officials put the figure at much higher.

Military chiefs say that 43 people were confirmed killed, but officials warned dozens of others were believed to be injured or missing in remote, mountainous areas.

"Heavy equipment we've requested from the provincial government has not arrived yet, because the roads and bridges are impassable," Alvin Futalan, the police chief of Guihulngan town on Negros says.

"We are using our hands and shovels to search in the rubble," Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas told the AFP news agency.

Thirty-nine people alone were reported killed in Guihulngan, a coastal city of 100,000 people that was close to the quake's epicenter. Many buildings in the center of the city had collapsed, while landslides had buried some homes completely.

The city's 42-man police rescue squad has been joined by hundreds of army troops and volunteers in clearing debris in their search to find people still believed to be missing.

"The army (troops) had to walk about 30 miles from the last stop reachable by vehicle to reach us," Fatulan said.

Seismologists said more than 700 aftershocks battered Negros during the 20 hours following the initial quake, which stuck at midday on Monday.

Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo said he feared there could be more unreported casualties. "Sadly, we expect the death toll could still rise," Degamo said.

Colonel Francisco Zosimo Patrimonio, an army commander in Negros, said a landslide buried dozens of houses in another town near Guihulngan.

"Local officials there have a minimal estimate of 40 adults missing (with the) number of children missing undetermined," he said.

Telephone communications in some parts of Negros were cut off, leaving information from remote regions unobtainable.

Cebu, the Philippines' second biggest city with 2.3 million residents and a popular tourist destination, was 50 kilometers from the epicenter and shook violently during the initial quake. No deaths were reported there.

The Philippines sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a belt around the Pacific Ocean where friction between shifting tectonic plates causes frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity.

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