Death toll in Visayas quake nearing 200
MANILA (UPDATE) - The death toll from a killer quake in the central Philippines is likely to approach 200 as rescue teams focused on finding dead bodies buried under landslides and fallen structures, an official said.
A total of 186 deaths have been confirmed so far from the 7.2-magnitude quake that shook the tourist island of Bohol on Tuesday, toppling bridges, shattering roads, causing landslides and reducing historic churches to rubble.
At its latest count, Bohol has suffered 173 dead alone, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said.
"Our conservative estimate is that there are roughly 180 to 185 dead in Bohol alone," Bohol information officer Augusto Escopia told AFP, a day after authorities halted the search for survivors and focused on recovering dead bodies.
The quake also left 13 others dead in the central islands of Cebu and Siquijor, the NDRRMC said. At least 583 people suffered injuries.
The recovery of bodies in Bohol will likely last one more week, said Escopia, adding that reports from some hospitals indicated that there were further fatalities to be counted.
There are also 11 more missing in Bohol, the NDRRMC said. Escopia said hopes are fading they would be found alive.
The biggest problem facing the more than 1.2 million residents of Bohol island is the need for shelter after the quake destroyed or damaged many homes, Escopia added.
"They (the residents) are afraid to go home because there are still aftershocks. Some have cracks on their walls. They are still afraid to go inside," Escopia said.
About 600 kilometers (370 miles) from capital Manila, Bohol is known for its beaches, its rolling "Chocolate Hills", tiny tarsier primates, and centuries-old Catholic churches, many of which collapsed or sustained heavy damage.
Thousands of people in Bohol have taken to camping out in the open in front of damaged houses and buildings to avoid being crushed in case their buildings collapse further, Escopia said.
Both the government and foreign aid groups have been sending in tents to help residents, he added.
At least 380,906 people were displaced while more than 45,641 houses have been damaged in Bohol due to the quake, the NDRRMC said.
The NDRRMC said estimated total cost of damage is now at P867.24 million: P763.48 million in Bohol, P96.16 million in Cebu, P7.35 million in Siquijor and P250,000 in Negros.
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. – with Agence France-Presse