LOON, Philippines, Oct 16 (Reuters) - The death toll from a strong earthquake in the central Philippines has risen to almost 100, officials said on Wednesday, and rescuers were digging through the rubble of a church and a hospital in search of more victims.
At least 10 people were missing under the collapsed public hospital, church and a home in the town of Loon on Bohol island, 630 km (390 miles) south of Manila, which bore the brunt of the 7.2 quake on Tuesday.
The quake caused landslides and widespread damage to infrastructure in Bohol and nearby Cebu, with close to three million people affected. The number of people injured in the quake climbed towards 280.
At least 90 of those killed were in Bohol, the national disaster agency said. Officials feared the toll would rise further as communications with damaged villages were re-established.
“I think this is a growing number, yesterday we had a partial communications block-out,” Loon mayor Lloyd Lopez told Philippine radio.
At least a third of the deaths on Bohol island were in Loon, a town of about 43,000 people. One of those was the body of a schoolgirl found late on Tuesday under the rubble of a collapsed high school in Maribojoc town, adjacent to Loon.
“We have not reached all barangays (villages), many are cut off, the roads are blocked by big boulders,” Lopez said.
Another eight people were killed on Cebu and one on Siquijor island, the disaster agency said.
Many of the millions affected by the quake spent the night outdoors, including patients at some hospitals in Cebu, because of aftershocks. More than 800 aftershocks have been recorded, the disaster agency said.
“There are so many aftershocks, we are afraid,” Elena Manuel, a 64-year-old grandmother, told Reuters after her family and neighbors spent the night in the grounds of the centuries-old church that collapsed in Loon.
“We don’t have any more food and water because stores are closed, and the bridge ... is damaged. After the quake, water and mud came out of cracks on the ground in our backyard.”
Ferry and airline services have resumed despite damage to ports and airport structures in Bohol and Cebu.
The air force was carrying 11 tonnes (25,000 lbs) of relief supplies to affected residents in Bohol province, a military spokesman said. President Benigno Aquino was expected to visit evacuees in Tagbilaran City in Bohol on Wednesday.
The last time a quake of similar magnitude hit Bohol province was in 1602, said Trixie Angeles, a legal consultant who works at the National Commission on Culture and the Arts. (Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco in MANILA; Editing by Paul Tait)