MANILA — A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck the Philippines on Monday, killing at least eight people with others feared trapped when buildings collapsed on them north of the capital.
Manila residents described it as the strongest quake in years, and Clark International Airport, about 50 miles northwest of Manila on the main island of Luzon, had to be closed after part of its ceiling caved in. Local media said a number of churches were also damaged.
In Manila, people evacuated offices and residences as buildings swayed. Traffic clogged the streets after the train network was shut down to assess damage.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported that the quake had a depth of 7.5 miles. It was centered in Zambales province, northwest of Manila, the institute said.
“The earthquake of magnitude 6.1 is considered a strong earthquake, but it is not a major earthquake,” said Renato Solidum, the agency’s director. He said he suspects that the damage in neighboring Pampanga province, the site of the airport, stemmed from soft foundation under buildings.
Dozens of aftershocks were recorded after the earthquake, but none were serious.
Salvador Panelo, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, issued a statement urging the public to “remain calm but vigilant.”
“We urge them to refrain from spreading disinformation in social media that may cause undue alarm, panic and stress to many people,” the statement added.
The Philippines is along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of active volcanoes and fault lines.
When it comes to earthquakes, Manila has long been dreading what locals have dubbed “the Big One,” because a 60-mile major fault line running through the capital is ripe for movement. The West Valley Fault last moved in 1658, and experts warn that a major quake along the fault could kill 50,000 people if residents are caught unprepared.
Solidum said that disaster management experts have to prepare for a scenario in which the earthquake is “much stronger than what happened today.”
“We only had a maximum of Intensity 5 here . . . but [for the Big One], the scenario will be Intensity 8,” he said. This smaller quake “highlights the importance of making sure that houses and buildings are structurally prepared.”