|Basilica of the Holy Child, Cebu City, after the earthquake
(The following report is from The Australian newspaper)
A POWERFUL earthquake on Tuesday this week killed at least 93 people in the Philippines 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. Cebu, with a population of 2.5 million people, is the political, economic, educational and cultural centre of the central Philippines.
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. 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. 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.
Ten churches, some of which have crucial links to the earliest moments of Spanish colonial and Catholic conquest in the 1500s, were also badly damaged on Cebu and Bohol. The limestone bell tower of the Philippines' oldest church, Cebu's Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, was in ruins. Other limestone churches that were built in the 1700s and 1800s on Bohol had crumbled completely, prompting grieving for the loss of some of the Philippines' most important cultural treasures.
“It is like part of the body of our country has been destroyed,” Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua, a history lecturer at De La Salle University in Manila, told AFP.
Aside from its beaches, Bohol is famous for its more than 1,000 small limestone “Chocolate Hills” that turn brown during the dry season. One of the main tourist venues there, the Chocolate Hills Complex, was severely damaged, according to Delapan Ingleterra, head of a local tourist police unit. “There are huge cracks in the hotel and there was a collapse of the view deck on the second floor,” Ingleterra told AFP, adding that no-one was injured at the complex.
Tuesday's quake was followed by hundreds of aftershocks, at least four aftershocks of which measured more than 5.0 in magnitude.
The Philippines lies on the so-called Ring of Fire, a vast Pacific Ocean region where many of Earth's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.
Prayer points include:
- Disaster relief teams who are assessing the damage.
- Rescue teams and those providing emergency services
- Grieving families and friends, and communities in shock
- Safety from the continuing aftershocks
- The work of churches and diaconal ministry agents in responding to the situation