Manila, Jul 27 (EFE).- At least four people have been killed and many historic buildings have been damaged after a magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck Abra province in the northwest Philippines island of Luzon on Wednesday, authorities reported.
Two fatalities were in Benguet province, one in Abra, and one in Mountain province, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said at a press conference, adding at least 16 people were injured.
The earthquake has also affected some 15 cities and caused serious damage to at least 179 buildings, 29 roads and three bridges. There have also been reports of landslides.
Abalos said that because the earthquake was big, significant damage is expected.
The United States Geological Survey recorded the earthquake at M7.0 at a depth of 10 kilometers.
The shake, recorded at 8.43 local time (00:43 GMT), was felt around 400 kms away in the capital Manila, where it surprised residents who evacuated buildings.
School classes and workplaces in many places in the north of Luzon have been abandoned, while thousands of people have been evacuated from buildings and public centers in fear of new tremors.
The earthquake also produced some large waves, although the emergency service ruled out the possibility of a tsunami.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Conversion of St. Paul from the Spanish colonial era in the city of Vigan, in the province of Ilocos Sur, about 45 km from the epicenter of the earthquake, suffered “significant damage” to its facade, the local emergency service confirmed to EFE.
In the same city, recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and the best preserved Spanish colonial city in the Philippines, other historic buildings and architectural complexes suffered significant damage after the strong tremor and subsequent aftershocks.
In videos published on social media networks, rocks and rubble could be seen falling from the bell tower in Bantay, which was built by the Spanish in 1590 to keep watch for pirates and invaders.
In the province of Ilocos Norte, Laoag’s bell tower, built by the Augustinians in 1612, was destroyed by the earthquake, Senator Imee Marcos said in a message to local media.
The Philippines sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area that accumulates around 90 percent of the world’s seismic and volcanic activity, and is shaken by some 7,000 tremors a year, most of them moderate. EFE