The death toll from Tuesday’s powerful earthquake that jolted central Visayas in the Philippines has now reached over 100, while still shaken residents cope with continuing aftershocks.
One hundred and seven people were confirmed dead and 276 others were hurt after the 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Tuesday morning, destroying buildings and centuries-old churches, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Among the deaths, 97 were reportedly from the hard-hit province of Bohol, where the quake’s epicenter was located. One other fatality was reported in nearby Siquijor while Cebu confirmed at least 9 deaths.
A total of 2,841,956 people were affected by the quake, the strongest the country has experienced in more than two decades.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the violent tremors felt in Bohol Tuesday was equivalent to the energy of 32 Hiroshima atomic bombs.
Authorities said the death toll could still climb as officials struggle to assess the extent of the damage in Bohol.
The coastal town of Loon, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the epicenter in Carmen, was one of the worst affected areas after the quake triggered landslides that buried houses.
Ten historic churches in Bohol and Cebu—regarded as the birthplace of Catholicism in the Philippines—were reduced to rubble by the strong quake.
Parts of the Church of San Pedro Apostol in Loboc, built in 1602 and the second oldest church in Bohol, crumbled to the ground while its bell tower made of crushed coral is in ruins.
In Cebu, the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino was also heavily damaged. It’s bellfry collapsed while cracks were found in the walls of the main structure. The church was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1941.
The famed Chocolate Hills in Carmen, Bohol was not spared from the devastation. Parts of the rolling hills have collapsed while the tourist spot’s leaning tower was also damaged.
Bohol and Cebu are currently under state of calamity as hundreds of rescuers and volunteers were mobilized.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image of damage caused by the Negros Oriental earthquake in 2012: Wildflower Judy/Flickr