MANILA – A strong earthquake rocked a large swath of the northern Philippines, injuring at least 36 people and forcing the closure of an international airport and the evacuation of patients in a hospital, officials said Wednesday.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Tuesday night’s magnitude 6.4 quake, which was set off by movement of a local fault, was centered 9 kilometers (5 miles) northwest of Lagayan town in Abra province at a depth of 11 kilometers (7 miles).
The U.S. Tsunami Warning System said no warning or advisory was issued.
The quake was felt across a wide area of the main northern Luzon region, including in some parts of metropolitan Manila, more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Abra.
At least 10 people received mostly minor injuries in Abra, mainly from falling debris, and 26 others were injured in Ilocos Norte, the home province of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. The international airport in Ilocos Norte’s capital city of Laoag was closed Wednesday due to damage from the quake and at least two domestic flights were canceled, officials said.
In Batac city, also in Ilocos Norte, patients were moved out of the province’s largest hospital after parts of the ceiling in the intensive care unit fell as the building swayed. Medical consultation services at the hospital were suspended. School classes in the province were halted while engineers assessed damage to buildings, officials said.
Marcos Jr. said authorities were inspecting roads and buildings. “Most people are asking for tents because they’re afraid to go back to their houses because if these have been weakened and an aftershock hits, they may get hurt,” he said at a news conference in Manila.
More than 400 aftershocks have been detected but only a few were felt by people, officials said.
In the town of La Paz in Abra, a century-old Christian church was damaged, with parts of its belfry collapsing and some walls cracked, littering the church’s grassy yard with debris, officials said.
At least two towns in Cagayan province lost electricity due to damaged power lines. A number of bridges and roads in outlying provinces were damaged.
In July, a magnitude 7 earthquake set off landslides and damaged buildings in Abra and other northern provinces, killing at least five people and injuring dozens.
In 1990, a magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in the northern Philippines and wrought extensive damage, including in Manila.
The Philippine archipelago lies on the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” a region along most of the Pacific Ocean rim where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the Southeast Asian nation one of the world’s most disaster-prone.