A strong earthquake has jolted central Philippine islands, killing at least 43 people and triggering landslides that left about 40 people missing.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the quake had a magnitude of 6.9 and was felt at the strongest intensity of 7.0 on the central island of Negros. The epicentre was located five kilometres northwest of Tayasan town in Negros Oriental province.
Governor Noel Degamo said at least 13 people were killed in his province and 40 were missing in the village of Planas in Guihulngan town, where a landslide occurred. An army commander later confirmed at least 43 dead.
"The military and police are leading search-and-rescue operations in the affected areas," Degamo told a Manila radio station. "At least three main bridges are not passable so we cannot reach some areas."
Another landslide in the village of Solongon in nearby La Libertad town buried about 100 houses, said Colonel Francisco Zosimo Patrimonio.
He said rescue operations were ongoing and no bodies or survivors had been found. He warned the death toll would likely climb because of the landslide. A nine-year-old girl was killed by a collapsed wall inside her school in Tayasan town, and an 11-year-old girl who was killed when the wall of a chapel collapsed in Jimalalud town.
The quake struck at 11.49am (1449 AEDT) on Monday and was felt in at least seven central provinces, according to the institute.
More than 200 aftershocks were recorded, the strongest of magnitude of 6.2, the institute said. It had issued a tsunami alert level 2 immediately after the quake but lifted the warning more than three hours later.
The Office of Civil Defence said a three-storey building fell down in La Libertad town, while five cottages in a nearby beach resort were destroyed by a sudden rise in seawater following the quake. Work in government offices and classes in schools were suspended in Iloilo and Negros Oriental.
The Philippines, located in the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire", suffered its worst earthquake in 1990 when a 7.7-magnitude tremor killed nearly 2000 people on the northern island of Luzon.