earthquakes in the Philippines

TIMELINE: Most destructive earthquakes to hit the Philippines since 1990

Sofia Guanzon
TIMELINE: Most destructive earthquakes to hit the Philippines since 1990

DESTROYED. A house is destroyed in La Trinidad, Benguet, following a magnitude 7 earthquake that rocked Luzon on July 27, 2022.

PTV Cordillera

The July 27, 2022 earthquake is the strongest to hit Luzon since 1990

MANILA, Philippines – On Wednesday morning, July 27, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck Abra province, with tremors felt across the country’s capital and Northern Luzon. 

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) initially measured this tectonic quake at magnitude 7.3, but later lowered it to 7. 

This marks the strongest earthquake to hit the island of Luzon since 1990, when a magnitude 7.7 temblor struck. Since 1970, 11 other earthquakes of magnitude 6.5 or stronger have been recorded within 250 kilometers of this July 27 quake, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). 

Historically, quakes of this magnitude have caused catastrophic destruction and have resulted in thousands of deaths.

Here’s a rundown of recent earthquakes in the Philippines of similar scale:

1990: Luzon earthquake 

On July 16, 1990, a catastrophic earthquake of magnitude 7.7 struck Luzon, creating a 125-kilometer-long ground rupture that stretched from Dingalan, Aurora, to Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya. 

According to reports by Phivolcs and USGS, it triggered “hundreds of thousands” of landslides throughout Northern and Central Luzon, causing multiple buildings to collapse and inflicting other major infrastructural damage across the Baguio-Cabanatuan-Dagupan area. (READ: FAST FACTS: The 1990 Luzon earthquake

An estimated 2,412 lives were lost during this catastrophe and 3,000 people were injured. This was also the strongest earthquake recorded in the Philippines since the Moro Gulf quake of 1976, which had a magnitude of 8 and killed 8,000 people. 

1994: Mindoro earthquake 

On November 15, 1994, an earthquake of magnitude 7.1 hit Mindoro in Southern Luzon. Similar to the 1990 Luzon quake, this produced a 35-kilometer-long ground rupture, and triggered a tsunami that brought the total death toll up to 78. 

Its intensity was so strong that it was felt as far as Pampanga in the north, Sorsogon and Masbate of the Bicol region in the south, and Iloilo in Western Visayas. 

According to Phivolcs Special Report No. 2, this devastating earthquake caused a total of 430 injuries, 67 damaged bridges, and 7,566 destroyed houses in 13 out of 15 municipalities in Oriental Mindoro. 

2002: Palimbang earthquake

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake rattled Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, on March 6, 2002, and was recorded as the sixth strongest quake in the world that year

This is the last major earthquake to have struck Mindanao, resulting in a death toll of eight, and injuries of 41. According to Phivolcs, a total of 7,684 families in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North and South Cotabato were affected.

2013: Bohol earthquake 

On October 15, 2013, a powerful earthquake with magnitude 7.2 struck the province of Bohol in Central Visayas. According to the final report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, 222 people died, 967 were injured, and 8 were reported missing. 

This was the deadliest earthquake to hit the country since 1990 at the time. In total, the catastrophe affected over 3 million Filipinos.

Over 79,000 structures including homes, major roads, churches, schools, and public buildings were damaged, 14,500 of which were completely destroyed, leaving 340,000 people displaced.  

2019: Mindanao earthquakes

In October 2019, three succeeding quakes ranging from magnitude 6.3 to 6.6 rattled Cotabato: the first with magnitude 6.3 on October 16, the second with magnitude 6.6 on October 29, and the third, just two days after on October 31, with magnitude 6.5.

These quakes killed at least six people, injured hundreds, and left 8,000 residents homeless due to major infrastructural damage across the region. 

Following the earthquake swarm that hit Cotabato, another strong magnitude 6.9 quake rocked Davao del Sur on December 15. The earthquake left at least 4 people dead from falling debris. (FAST FACTS: The destructive earthquakes that hit Mindanao) – Rappler.com

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