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Philippine quake cracks buildings, injures 10

By Jim Gomez

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 6 2012 2:15 a.m. MST

In this photo released by the Philippine National Red Cross, police officers inspect cracked walls in Masbate city, central Philippines, Tuesday, March 6, 2012. A moderately strong earthquake cracked buildings and knocked televisions and glassware from tables in the central Philippine province, injuring at least nine people and sending others rushing outside in panic, officials said.

Philippine National Red Cross, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

MANILA, Philippines — A moderately strong earthquake cracked buildings and knocked televisions and glassware from tables Tuesday in a central Philippine province, injuring at least 10 people and sending others rushing outside in panic, officials said.

The quake came a month after 58 people died in a quake on another Philippine island.

Renato Solidum of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the quake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.2 struck Tuesday morning and was centered at sea just two miles (three kilometers) north of Masbate City on the island province of Masbate.

The quake, which was caused by movement in a local fault, was felt in nearby provinces.

Masbate City Mayor Socrates Tuason told The Associated Press by telephone that there were no reports of major damage, and power and communications were not affected by the temblor in his hillside city of 90,000 people.

But the quake caused an abandoned three-story building to collapse and shattered glass windows in houses and other buildings, at least two of which were cleared of people and cordoned off by police while government engineers checked their stability. Large numbers of people rushed out of homes, offices, hospitals and schools and stayed in the streets as a number of aftershocks rattled nerves after the quake.

Several restaurants, shops and banks also had visible cracks and did not open Tuesday, officials said.

At least 10 people were slightly injured by falling objects and collapsing walls, officials said.

"I was having breakfast with my wife when everything started to shake. The TV set and glasses fell off the table," Tuason said. "When I got out, I saw all the people in the community were on the streets."

Disaster-response and first aid teams were deployed across the city, Tuason said.

Classes in all schools were suspended as buildings were checked for damage, he said, adding that he had called an emergency meeting to deal with any contingency.

Officials of Masbate, about 220 miles (350 kilometers) southeast of Manila, led earthquake drills in schools and offices just last week after a magnitude-6.9 quake left 58 people dead, 60 others missing and displaced more than 200,000 on nearby Negros island on Feb. 6.

Leo Jasareno, who heads a government agency that produces hazard maps for communities, said Tuesday's earthquake should serve as the latest warning for thousands of people to stop ignoring advice to immediately evacuate from more than 7,000 mountain villages nationwide that are prone to landslides set off by earthquakes or storms.

Several residential areas also dangerously sit on and near active fault zones, including in metropolitan Manila, but people have ignored the risks, officials said.

The Philippines is in the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," where earthquakes and volcanic activity are common. The damage and casualties are compounded by poor construction in violation of building codes in the impoverished nation.

In 1990, a magnitude-7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in northern Luzon region.

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