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Philippines powerful earthquake affect two iconic destinations of Bohol and Cebu

Central Philippines was hit on Tuesday by an earthquake of unprecedented magnitude. Rescue teams are still in Cebu and Bohol to help victims and assess extensive damages.

MANILA – “The equivalent in released energy of 32 Hiroshima bombs”. This is what Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said about the terrible earthquake which shook up both the famous tourist areas of Bohol and Cebu in Central Philippines. The government disaster monitoring agency said on Wednesday that the official death toll was 99, with 291 others wounded. It also affected another 593,000 families – the equivalent of over three million people- who were displaced or lost their properties.

It also created irremediable damage, toppling buildings and historic churches. Some of the hills of the famous Chocolate Hills were deformed. Philippines Department of Public Works and Highways said that based on initial assessment, damage to roads and bridges has reached Filipino Peso 57.8 million in Bohol. In Cebu, damage to properties was pegged at P17.67 million. Bohol and Cebu were placed under state of calamity on Tuesday.

Loboc Church and Baclayon Church, two of the oldest churches in the Philippines, were also heavily damaged. The churches were some of the oldest in the country. Baclayon Church first structure was built back in1595 while the church’s building was from 1727. Loboc Church is the second oldest church in Bohol. It was rebuilt in 1638 after a fire partially destroyed its original structure.

Cebu, one of the Philippines best-known island by travellers was less affected than the neighbouring island of Bohol. The airport had to be however closed for a couple of hours as ceiling panels collapsed. The airport is now operating again normally.

Some old buildings in town were damaged –including the historical Sto Nino Basilica- as well as schools and some hospitals. All shopping malls were closed for safety reasons.

Philippines national carrier Philippine Airlines through PAL Express as well as Cebu Pacific immediately agreed to accommodate rescue and relief cargo and send medical teams as well as supply. Philippine President Benigno Aquino is paying a visit today to areas devastated by the earthquake.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.