The death toll from yesterday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake in the central Philippines has risen to almost 100, with rescuers continuing to dig through the rubble of a collapsed church and hospital in the search for more victims.
An estimated 800 aftershocks are hampering efforts to rescue at least 10 people in the town of Loon on Bohol Island, which bore the brunt of the tremors and where the vast majority of those killed in the quake were found.
Officials fear the death toll will continue to rise as broken communication lines are re-established with isolated villages that have not yet been contacted.
Lloyd Lopez, the mayor of Loon where at least a third of the deaths were recorded, told Philippine radio: “I think this is a growing number, yesterday we had a partial communications block-out”.
He added: “We have not reached all barangays [villages] as many are cut off. The roads are blocked by big boulders”.
The number of people injured in the quake has risen to 280, while landslides and widespread damage to infrastructure on the islands of Bohol and nearby Cebu left close to three million people affected.
The body of a young girl was found amid the rubble of a collapsed high school in Loon’s neighbouring town Maribojoc late yesterday evening, while a further eight people were found dead on Cebu and another on Siquijor Island.
Many of the millions affected by the quake spent last night outdoors, including patients at some hospitals in Cebu, because of the numerous aftershocks.
Speaking to the Reuters news agency after her family and neighbours spent the night in the grounds of a collapsed centuries-old church, 64-year-old grandmother Elena Manuel said: “There are so many aftershocks, we are afraid… We don't have any more food and water because stores are closed, and the bridge is damaged.”
The Philippines’ air force said it would be carrying 11 tons of relief supplies to Bohol, with President Benigno Aquino expected to visit evacuees in Tagbilaran City later this afternoon.
The last time a quake of similar magnitude hit Bohol province was in 1602, said Trixie Angeles, a legal consultant who works at the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.