TACLOBAN, PHILIPPINES – A strong earthquake damaged a power plant, caused landslides and cracked buildings and roads in the central Philippines, injuring scores of people and cutting off outlying villages. An east-central area of the archipelago was without power Friday, and the army sent soldiers and engineers to villages where roads were reportedly impassable.
The 6.5-magnitude quake Thursday afternoon was centered in Leyte province at a shallow depth, which often can cause greater surface damage. The U.S. Geological Survey measured its depth at 6.5 kilometers (4 miles), while Filipino seismologists said it was 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) deep and caused by movement of the Philippine Fault.
Two deaths were reported, and four people were missing from the quake most strongly felt in the Leyte town of Kananga. A building with a grocery store and other businesses collapsed from the shaking, killing one person, injuring more than 20 others and trapping six people who were later rescued, Kananga Mayor Rowena Codilla told The Associated Press by cellphone.
“I can see that the child looks pale and weak, but the others are OK,” Codilla said as she watched medics treating the victims. She said many people managed to dash out when the building started to sway, but those stuck inside guided the rescuers by cellphone to where they were trapped.
A big chunk of the eastern side of the central Philippines was without electricity because a geothermal power plant in the town of Jaro sustained damage, said Romina Marasigan, spokeswoman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council. She said some houses in upland villages, mostly made of light materials, have been totally damaged.
More than 241 aftershocks were recorded up to early Friday, Marasigan said, warning that they could trigger landslides in upland areas, especially in areas where it has also been raining.
Mayor Richard Gomez of Ormoc city, about 30 kilometers (17 miles) from Kananga, told DZMM radio that a landslide hit a house and killed a young woman. More than 100 others were injured in the area, including many who were “traumatized and hysterical,” he said.
Ormoc’s airport was closed after the quake damaged its runway, Gomez said.
Maj. Gen. Raul Farnacio, an army commander in the area, said local officials in outlying villages of Kananga and Ormoc on Friday reported at least four people missing in landslides. Soldiers and army engineers have been dispatched to the villages, where some roads are reportedly not passable to vehicles, he added.
Delia Vilbar, the treasurer of Ormoc, said she was attending a meeting on the second floor of City Hall when the earthquake struck.
“It was very strong, and the building was shaking,” she said. “I sat down while others in the room went under the table.”
When she went outside to the street, she saw people crying and embracing each other, she said.
The quake struck in a region that was devastated in 2013 by Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, leveled entire villages and displaced more than 5 million villagers. Tacloban city, which was hard hit by Haiyan, lost electrical power after Thursday’s earthquake.
The Philippines sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where earthquakes and volcanoes are common. A magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in the northern Philippines in 1990.