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Aftershocks rattle Philippines; quake death toll climbs to 15

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:15 PM EST, Mon February 6, 2012
Residents scamper to safety after a 6.8 earthquake hit near Cebu City on Monday.
Residents scamper to safety after a 6.8 earthquake hit near Cebu City on Monday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The official death toll is 15, with 29 people missing
  • NEW: A church collapsed and several bridges were damaged
  • The 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck just before noon Monday
  • Two children die at schools, police say

(CNN) -- A 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Monday off the third-largest island in the Philippines has killed at least 15 people, the government said.

Another 29 people were missing after a landslide in the city of Guihulngan, it said.

The quake struck at 11:49 a.m. about 70 kilometers (44 miles) from the coastal city of Dumaguete on the Philippine island of Negros, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The dead included two elementary school children, authorities said, according to the Philippines News Agency. The girls died when walls at their schools collapsed on them, National Police spokesman Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz Jr. said.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council put the official death toll at 15 in a report issued shortly after midnight Monday.

The earthquake also caused the collapse of Aglipay Church in the municipality of La Libertad, it said. Many bridges were damaged and were either unusable or safe only for light vehicles, it said.

Several aftershocks, ranging from magnitude 5.2 to 6.0, rattled the area into the evening hours Monday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology issued a level 2 tsunami alert for areas along the Tanon Strait between Negros and the neighboring island of Cebu. The alert -- a notch below the highest tsunami alert of level 3, which required evacuation of the affected areas -- was later lifted after an observation period, according to the Philippines News Agency.

No tsunami warning was issued for the wider Pacific region, and there was no tsunami threat to Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

The earthquake occurred in the ocean at a depth of 46.6 kilometers (29 miles), according to the USGS.

The Philippines is situated in the so-called Ring of Fire, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

At the Circle Inn Hotel in the city of Bacolod, which is on Negros but not on the coast nearest the quake's epicenter, a receptionist said the quake lasted between three and five minutes.

"We felt the shaking," the receptionist said. "The guests all exited the building. But all the people here are OK."

There was no damage to the hotel, the receptionist said.

CNN's Licia Yee and Jennifer Deaton contributed to this report.

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