Philippines earthquake: Death toll rises to 151, Prez warns profiteers

The death toll from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit central Philippines reached 151.

Zee Media Bureau

Manila: The death toll from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit central Philippines reached 151, says a government official.

According to Civil Defence Director Eduardo del Rosario, another 291 people are injured. Around three million people were affected by the quake, which caused landslides and widespread damage to infrastructure in the popular tourist destinations of Bohol and nearby Cebu.

Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino made an aerial inspection of quake-hit areas in the central island of Bohol, which was hit hardest by Tuesday`s earthquake, before visiting Cebu.

A day after the quake, Bohol Governor Edgardo Chatto said that all towns in need had been reached, although landslides and damaged bridges were slowing down road travel.

The rescue operation is on in the hope of finding survivors in the rubble of a church and a public hospital in the town of Loon on Bohol island, 630 km (390 miles) south of Manila.

At least a third of the Bohol deaths were in Loon, a town of about 43,000 people. Among them was a schoolgirl whose body was found late on Tuesday under the rubble of a collapsed high school in the adjacent town of Maribojoc.

Many of the millions hit by the quake spent the night outdoors, including patients at some hospitals in Cebu, because of aftershocks. More than 840 aftershocks have been recorded, with one of magnitude 5.1, the volcanology agency said.

Officials said 18 of the 20 damaged bridges in Bohol were impassable, while four roads in the province were still closed. Seventeen churches, many of them centuries old, suffered irreparable damage to their old coral-stone structures.

Ferry and airline services have resumed despite damage to ports and airports in Bohol and Cebu, where the belfry of the country`s oldest church collapsed.

The Air Force was flying 11 tonnes (25,000 lbs) of relief supplies to Bohol residents, a military spokesman said.

President Benigno Aquino, meanwhile, warned of stiff penalties for profiteers exploiting the disaster to hike prices.

The government has declared a state of calamity in both Bohol and Cebu, triggering a freeze on prices there.

Tourism in both places was also hurt by the quake.

The last time a quake of similar magnitude hit Bohol was in 1602, said Trixie Angeles, a legal consultant at the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.

(With Agency inputs)