Central Philippines earthquake kills at least 15

Damage caused by the quake in Negros Oriental, central Philippines
Image caption Buildings in the worst affected areas were violently shaken

At least 15 people have died after a 6.7 magnitude quake struck the central Philippines, according to government officials.

The quake hit 70km north of Dumaguete city on Negros island at 11:49 (03:49 GMT) at a depth of 20km, according to the US Geological Survey.

The Office of Civil Defense told the BBC that at least 29 people were also reported missing.

But one local report put the number of dead at 43.

Local military commander Colonel Fransisco Patrimonio is quoted in local press as saying that 43 people died in the badly-hit coastal area of Guihulngan, many of them in a landslide following the quake - and that there was rampant looting in the area.

But this report has not yet been confirmed by the central authorities.

"As of 8pm tonight we have 10 identified dead and five still unidentified dead and 29 are still missing. The 29 have been identified but they are still missing. Their bodies have not been found," civil defence operations officer Ver Neil Balaba, based in Cebu, told the BBC.

Tsunami alert lifted

A series of aftershocks followed the initial quake, one of them registered a magnitude of 6.2 at the epicentre many hours after the initial earthquake hit.

Search and rescue operations are being carried out in areas where houses and buildings collapsed due to landslides.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology issued a tsunami alert for the area, but had lifted it by 14:30.

The late morning quake in the Negros and Cebu region caused panic in nearby cities, with people rushing out of schools, malls and offices. Officials in some areas suspended work and cancelled classes.

The death toll includes two children, according to the government's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

A child was reportedly crushed to death by a collapsed wall in Tayasan town in Negros, NDRRMC chief Benito Ramos told reporters.

Buildings in the cities of Cebu and San Carlos shook violently and sustained damages such as broken windows and cracks on the walls, he added.

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