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Desperate search for quake victims

Rescuers used picks and shovels trying to reach dozens of people trapped by a strong earthquake that shook a central Philippine island.

At least 13 people were killed and 40 are believed missing, most of them along the shore near the epicentre of the 6.9-magnitude quake that struck in a narrow strait just off Negros Island.

In the mountain village of Planas, nine miles from coastal Guihulngan town in Negros Oriental province, as many as 30 houses were buried with at least 40 residents believed trapped.

"Their situation is bad because if you are covered by landslide for one hour, two hours, how can you breathe?" Mayor Ernesto Reyes said. "But we just hope for the best, that there are still survivors."

Army troops and police were deployed to help in the rescue.

At least 10 people were confirmed dead in Guihulngan, including students at a college and an elementary school and others in a town market that collapsed. About 100 were injured.

The quake triggered another landslide in the mountain village of Solongon in La Libertad town, also in Negros Oriental where an unknown number of people were trapped.

Food and medicines were waiting in the provincial capital of Dumaguete, but the aid could not reach the villages in need because of damaged roads and bridges.

The Philippines is in the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where earthquakes and volcanic activity are common. A 7.7-magnitude quake killed nearly 2,000 people in Luzon in 1990.

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