Philippines Earthquake: At Least 20 Dead

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hits Cebu, the economic and political hub of the central Philippines, killing at least 85.

At least 32 people have died after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit the Philippines.

Many of the fatalities were in Cebu, the political and economic hub of the central Philippines, civil defence office spokesman Reynaldo Balido told reporters.

However, there were a considerable number of fatalities reported on neighbouring Bohol island.

The quake struck at 8.12am local time near Balilihan, a town of about 18,000 people on Bohol, at a depth of 12 miles (20km), the United States Geological Survey reported.

The town lies across a strait about 37 miles (60km) from Cebu island.

Janet Maribao, a receptionist on Cebu, said: "I was fast asleep when suddenly I woke up because my bed was shaking. I was so shocked, I could do nothing but hide under the bed."

Residents and tourists reported extensive damage to old churches and modern buildings, including a university, while major roads had also been torn apart.

At Least 20 Dead In Philippines EarthquakeThe earthquake ripped up roads

Neil Sanchez, the head of Cebu’s disaster management office, said: "Communication lines are quite difficult here.

"Even the disaster risk reduction management office has been damaged. We had to move elsewhere."

Cebu hosts the country's busiest port and largest airport outside of the capital Manila. It also has a major ship building industry.

The earthquake was followed by at least four aftershocks measuring more than 5.0 in magnitude.

However, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre did not issue a Pacific-wide tsunami threat.

The Philippines lies on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a chain of islands that are prone to quakes and volcanic eruptions.

The deadliest recorded natural disaster in the Philippines occurred in 1976, when a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake devastated the Moro Gulf on the southern island of Mindanao.

Between 5,000 and 8,000 people were killed, according to official estimates.