Philippine quake forces cult out of tunnels

Reuters, Dec 15, 1999

TACLOBAN, Philippines, Dec 15, 1999 (Reuters) - A quake on Wednesday forced out more than 2,000 followers of a Philippine cult hiding in tunnels for fear of the sky raining down fire at the start of the new millennium.

The tremor struck at 1:12 p.m. (0512 GMT) and measured 4.8 on the open-ended Richter scale, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

The institute said it did not expect aftershocks or major damage. The quake was centred near the the coastal town of Ormoc, 570 km (355 miles) southeast of Manila.

Officials said followers of cult leader Ceferino Qunito were hiding in dozens of tunnels in the central province of Leyte.

A spokeswoman for the municipal office told reporters police had been deployed around the tunnels, which were considered unsafe.

The tremor cracked walls and pavements in the town, she said. Schoolchildren were also sent home early.

The earthquake-prone Philippines was hit by a quake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale on Sunday. Officials reported three deaths and 24 injured but only minor damage.

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