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Philippines rocked by earthquake

A moderately strong earthquake has cracked buildings and knocked televisions and glassware from tables in a central Philippine province, injuring at least five people and sending others rushing outside in panic, officials said.

Renato Solidum of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the quake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.2 struck on Tuesday morning and was centred just two miles north of Masbate City on the island province of Masbate.

The quake, which was caused by movement in a local fault, was felt in nearby provinces.

Masbate City Mayor Socrates Tuason said there were no immediate reports of major damage, and power and communications were unaffected by the tremor in his hillside city of 90,000 people.

But the quake caused cracks and shattered windows in houses and some buildings, one of which had to be cleared of people while safety officials ensured its stability. Large numbers of people rushed out of homes, offices, hospitals and schools and stayed in the streets as an aftershock hit less than an hour after the quake.

At least five people were slightly injured by falling objects, he said.

Disaster-response and first aid teams were deployed across the city, Mr Tuason said, adding that he had sent officials to check a report that an abandoned, three-story building has collapsed in a downtown residential area.

Classes in all schools were suspended as buildings were checked for damage, he said, adding he called an emergency meeting to deal with any contingency.

The Philippines is in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where earthquakes and volcanic activity are common. The damage and casualties are compounded by poor construction in violation of building codes in the impoverished nation.

In 1990, a magnitude-7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in northern Luzon region.

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