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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 07:28 GMT
Philippines quake toll rises
A huge boulder narrowly missed a house in Sarangani
Residents in Sarangani had a narrow escape
Up to 15 people are reported to have died in an earthquake that shook the southern Philippines.

Most victims were crushed by falling buildings or buried by mudslides but four people died of heart attacks after the tremors on Wednesday, officials said.

An elderly man sits behind a collapsed wall in General Santos
Most powerful quake since 1990
In the worst affected area - the south of Mindanao island - tens of thousands of people are still in makeshift emergency shelters.

Experts say more aftershocks are possible, but they are unlikely to be strong enough to cause more serious damage.

The earthquake, which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, was the most powerful to hit the Philippines since 1990 when more than 1,500 people were killed on the main island of Luzon.

"The worst is over," said chief government vulcanologist Raymundo Punongbayan.

The death toll rose from 11 to 15 overnight after relief workers from remote areas reported the discovery of four more bodies.

Services being restored

Debris crushed two people in the southern town of Lake Cebu, while two more were killed by falling construction blocks in nearby Sarangani province, said regional army spokesman Major Julieto Ando.

A boy was killed by a bullet as Muslim residents in Cotabato city fired guns into the air to ward off evil spirits.

The earthquake also knocked out power lines on the island.

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo said officials were working to restore basic services and give relief in the area.

"I commiserate with all the victims and those who lost their loved ones," she said during a radio broadcast.

Seismologists believe a movement of the offshore Cotabato trench in the Celebes Sea caused the quake.

The Philippines is situated in the Pacific "ring of fire", where volcanoes and earthquakes are relatively common.

See also:

12 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines rocked by quake
05 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
The Earth's Ring of Fire
06 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: The Philippines
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