MANILA: Five people were killed when at least two buildings collapsed as a strong earthquake of magnitude 6.3 rocked the northern Philippines, a local official said.
Three bodies have been pulled out of a collapse+d building in the town of Porac, while an old woman and her grandchild were crushed to death by another building in the town of Lubao, provincial governor Lilia Pineda told.
“The quake has caused a blackout,” she said, hampering rescue efforts in the early evening as night closed in.
The quake’s epicenter was in Castillejos town in Zambales province, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).
Cracks and rockfalls were reported along an expressway in the region, while a church and some houses made from light material collapsed.
“According to reports, electric posts and a portion of an old church in Porac (a town in nearby Pampanga province) collapsed,” said Governor Pineda.
Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said no tsunami warning was expected but urged the public to be on alert for aftershocks.
A witness said office buildings swayed in the main business district of Makati City in the capital, Manila, causing some people to evacuate their offices.
According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the quake struck at 5.11pm local time, about 60km north-west of Manila at a depth of 40km. The USGS initially said the magnitude was 6.4 but later downgraded it slightly.
It was felt strongest at intensity 5 in the nearby provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan, as well as some parts of Manila, where thousands of people rushed out of government offices and commercial buildings.
The overhead train system in Manila suspended operations to ensure that the stations were safe following the earthquake, said engineer Michael Capati, director for operations.
The Philippines is on the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a horse-shoe shaped band of volcanoes and fault lines circling the edges of the Pacific Ocean.
The last major quake to hit the country was a 7.1-magnitude tremor that killed more than 220 people in the central Philippines in October 2013.
In July 1990, more than 2,400 people were killed on the northern island of Luzon in a magnitude-7.8 quake, one of the strongest tremors ever to hit the country.