Rescuers come to the aid of a wounded person in Cebu city on Tuesday.Chester Baldicanto/AFP/Getty Images
The death toll from an earthquake in the central Philippines rose to 144 on Wednesday as rescuers dug through the rubble of collapsed buildings, including houses and historic churches. The number of injured rose toward 300, with at least 23 people still missing in the hours since the earthquake struck on Tuesday.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said at least 134 of the deaths were on Bohol Island, a popular tourist area that took the brunt of the 7.2 magnitude quake.
A day after the quake, Bohol's governor said all towns in need had been reached, although landslides and damaged bridges were slowing down road travel. A military spokesman said the air force was flying about 25,000 pounds of relief supplies to residents of the island, which is located 390 miles south of the capital, Manila.
Officials feared the death toll would rise as communications with damaged villages were re-established. Mobile phone links from the country's main provider had been restored, but a rival provider still had to fix some of its damaged equipment, a state telecommunications official said.
Doctors at a hospital on Bohol Island said they were having difficulties treating all patients due to the sudden influx from the earthquake.
Many of the millions hit by the quake — including patients at some hospitals — spent the night outdoors because of aftershocks. More than 840 aftershocks have been recorded, with one of magnitude 5.1, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.
"There are so many aftershocks, we are afraid," Elena Manuel, a 64-year-old grandmother, told Reuters after her family and neighbors spent the night on the grounds of a centuries-old church that collapsed in Loon, a Bohol Island town of about 43,000 people.
"We don't have any more food and water because stores are closed, and the bridge ... is damaged," she said. "After the quake, water and mud came out of cracks on the ground in our backyard."
Patrick Fuller, from the Red Cross, told Al Jazeera that authorities were responding efficiently to the crisis but that there was much work to be done.
"It will be a long road to recovery, because so many people have lost their homes," he said.