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Philippines Earthquake Kills At Least Eight People

Two strong earthquakes hours apart have struck a group of sparsely populated islands in the Luzon Strait in the northern Philippines, killing at least eight people and injuring about 60.

The quakes collapsed homes of stone and wood and roused residents from sleep.

Footage showed people clearing boulder-size stone bricks to pull out one body from the rubble.

Rubbles lie outside a damaged house in Itbayat town, Batanes islands, northern Philippines. Photo: AP

More than 2000 residents of Itbayat -- nearly all of the island's population of mostly fishermen -- were advised not to return to their homes and stay in the town plaza as successive aftershocks shook the region.

Army troops and additional doctors flew in after Itbayat's airport runway was declared safe.

The quakes measured 5.4 and 5.9 at relatively shallow depths, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

A damaged house after an earthquake in Itbayat, Batanes province. Photo: Provincial Government of Batanes

A third quake with a magnitude of 5.8 struck at sea west of Batanes later on Saturday, it said.

A one-storey hospital was damaged, prompting patients to be evacuated and brought out in the open with dozens of injured quake victims.

Seven of those injured who sustained serious fractures were flown out of Itbayat to a larger provincial hospital.

Itbayat, part of the country's northernmost Batanes Islands, has a population of about 2800 people and lies in the Luzon Strait that separates the Philippines and Taiwan.

Photo: AP

The islands are famous for their tiny ancestral stone houses with coral walls and cogon grass roofs and are often lashed by seasonal typhoons.

As the quake jolted Batanes, thousands of residents were holding a pre-dawn earthquake drill about 250 kilometres to the south in metropolitan Manila, which was not affected by the quake.

When the earthquake hit Batanes shortly after, it helped officials underscore the fact that disaster can strike anytime.

One of the world's most disaster-prone countries, the Philippines has frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions because it lies on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," a seismically active arc of volcanos and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

A magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2000 people in the northern Philippines in 1990.