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Dozens Die In Philippines After Powerful Earthquake

A strong earthquake has left dozens of people dead in the Philippines. The temblor, whose magnitude was first reported as 7.2 and then downgraded to 7.1, struck near the city of Catigbian in the inland area of Bohol, one of the central Visayas Islands.

At least 93 people have been reported dead, and the casualty count is likely to grow as rescue and recovery teams reach areas that were cut off by rubble and other obstructions.

The earthquake struck just after 8 a.m. local time Tuesday, a national holiday observing the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival. At least 10 quakes with a magnitude of 5 or higher were detected in the hours that followed, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

"Low-rise buildings collapsed on at least two islands and historic churches cracked and crumbled during the quake," Reuters reports, "which sparked panic, cut power and transport links and forced hospitals to evacuate patients."

The quake also damaged tourist attractions, such as the famed Chocolate Hills of Bohol. A photo of the damage to one hill that was posted to Twitter by tourist Robert Michael Poole.

Churches that have stood for hundreds of years also suffered damage, including the 16th century Basilica of the Holy Child in Cebu, The Associated Press reports.

The death toll was worsened by at least two stampedes of panicked people who had gathered to receive payments in a social welfare program for families with young children; a government agency says a 4-year-old child died in one of the incidents and that at least 35 people were injured.

The U.S. Geological Survey gives us some background on the area's tectonics:

"The Philippine Islands straddle a region of complex tectonics at the intersection of three major tectonic plates (the Philippine Sea, Sunda and Eurasia plates). As such, the islands are familiar with large and damaging earthquakes, and the region within 500 km of the October 15 earthquake has hosted 19 events of M6 or greater, a dozen of which have been shallow (0-70 km). One of these, a M 6.8 earthquake 70 km to the east of the October 15, 2013 event in 1990, caused several casualties."

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