Rescuers assisted by armed forces scrambled to find survivors in quake-hit central Philippines on Tuesday but a series of powerful aftershocks hampered them, as President Ninoy Aquino appealed for calm, a day after a 6.8 temblor shook the country killing at least 56 people.
Aquino will spend his birthday on Wednesday in Dumaguete City, comforting the population of the severely affected areas and in support of the rescue and support officials.
Army officials put the death toll at 56 while another 92 people were reported missing as the nation's military scrambled 1,000 government troops to deal with the disaster, according to ABS-CBN news reports.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Aquino continues to appeal for citizens to cooperate with the authorities, and to keep in mind that public safety must be kept the highest priority.
"This is an unusual situation which calls for the utmost responsibility, particularly in disseminating information," he added.
As many as 1005 aftershocks were recorded by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology till Tuesday afternoon on as rescue workers struggled to find dozens of missing people in the densely-populated region that was shaken on Monday. Aftershocks and resultant landslides made several mountainous roads impassable in the Negros, the third-largest island in the Philippines.
Philippines Armed Forces and Navy joined the police force in undertaking evacuation, search and rescue operations, an official statement said on Tuesday.
Aquino appealed to the quake-affected Central Visayas population to remain calm and cooperate with the authorities as they strive to bring normalcy to the areas. The quake had struck about 70 kilometers from the coastal city of Dumaguete.
ANC television news said in a report that Vice President Jejomar C Binay was visiting Dumaguete to inspect the damage and rescue efforts. School suspended classes in the region as local authorities took account of damage to the buildings and inspected whether they were safe to hold classes.
The damage to various national roads and bridges in Central Visayas is estimated to have reached P265.75 million and is hampering the rescue work. The department of public works and highways has begun rehabilitation of damaged roads and bridges.
Social workers are also reaching Negros Oriental to conduct debriefing sessions for earthquake affected, the department of social welfare and development said.
According to a report submitted by DPWH Region VII office, at least 11 bridges along Dumaguete North road in Negros Oriental are rendered impassable due to the presence of cracks.
In Cebu, a section of Dalaguete-Mantalongon-Badian is inaccessible due to rock falls and landslides. The road in the towns of Dalaguete and Badiam suffered but were now accessible, the Department said. Aquino ordered activation of government agency response teams to help victims.
Repair of damaged roads and bridges was initiated by authorities as they cleared routes and re-routed operations.
Officials warned that the toll could be much higher as authorities were yet to accomplish a complete estimate of the total damage caused by the quake, as many areas still remained inaccessible and telecommunication was cut off in some areas.
Those killed in the quake included school children as several buildings collapsed and landslides buried homes. The strong quake had prompted authorities to issue a tsunami warning but it was lifted later in the day. The earthquake occurred in the ocean at a depth of 46.6 kilometres.
The Philippines is situated in the so-called Ring of Fire, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.