93 dead as quake hits Philippine tourist islands

93 dead as quake hits Philippine tourist islands

CEBU, Philippines - A powerful earthquake killed at least 93 people in the Philippines Tuesday as it generated landslides that buried homes, triggered terrified stampedes and destroyed historic churches. Fifteen of the confirmed fatalities were in Cebu, the country's second most important city and a gateway to some of its most beautiful beaches, the national disaster agency reported.

The 7.1-magnitude quake killed another 77 people in the neighbouring island of Bohol, famed for its rolling "Chocolate Hills", while one other person died on nearby Siquijor, which attracts tourists with its pristine white sands.

"I was thrown to the ground by the strength of the quake. Broken glass rained on me," Elmo Alinsunorin, who was on duty as a guard for a government tax office in Cebu, told AFP.

"I thought I was going to die."

Authorities said the death toll could still climb, with officials struggling to assess the extent of the damage in the worst-hit areas of Bohol where roads remained impassable and power was cut at nightfall.

Bohol police chief Senior Superintendent Dennis Agustin said one of the worst affected areas was the coastal town of Loon, where at least 18 people were killed by landslides that buried houses along large stretches of highway.

Loon is about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from where the epicentre of the quake struck at just after 8:00am (0000 GMT). It faces a narrow strait of water, with Cebu about 25 kilometres away on the other side.

Cebu, with a population of 2.5 million people, is the political, economic, educational and cultural centre of the central Philippines.

It hosts the country's busiest port and the largest airport outside of the capital of Manila, which is about 600 kilometres to the north.

A university, a school, shopping malls, public markets and many small buildings in Cebu sustained damage in the quake.

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