Damage to infrastructure was estimated to cost at least 563 million pesos (13 million dollars)

The death toll in the worst earthquake to hit the Philippines in two decades rose to 171 on Friday, with at least 20 still missing and feared trapped under rubble.

Most of the victims were from Bohol province, the epicentre of Tuesday’s magnitude-7.2 tremor, where 159 were killed. Bohol is 640 kilometres south of Manila.

Twelve were killed in the nearby provinces of Cebu and Siquijor, while 375 were injured, according to the national disaster risk management agency.

Emergency workers rushed food, water, medicines, tents and other relief goods to the quake survivors, many of whom were staying outdoors for fear of aftershocks.

Some 3.4 million people were affected by the earthquake, which destroyed more than 34,000 houses in Bohol, Cebu, Siquijor and Negros Oriental province.

Damage to infrastructure was estimated to cost at least 563 million pesos (13 million dollars), the disaster risk management agency said.

While authorities assured victims that help was on the way, relief supplies were running low in many of the affected areas.

In Antequera town, where 13 were killed, Mayor Jose Pahang appealed for more assistance: “We have distributed our last supply of rice. We have also run out of canned goods, medicines and water.” He said 25 kilos of rice were rationed to each of its 21 villages on Thursday and residents were asked to share the supply until fresh relief goods reach the town.

“We are isolated because all roads leading to us have been blocked by landslides and we also cannot go out to get supplies,” he said on television.

Amid the destruction, an award-winning children’s choir based in Loboc town has appealed to those affected to remain strong.

“Let us not lose hope,” Carmel Mae Inzon, a member of the Loboc Children’s Choir, said in a television interview. “What happened was painful but we must accept it and not lose hope.” The choir was based in the centuries-old Church of San Pedro in Loboc, which was among the historic churches that collapsed due to the quake.

It has won various competitions including top prize at the Europe and its Songs Festival in Spain in 2003 and the Europe and its Songs 2003 Cup.

“All our practice sessions are cancelled for now,” Inzon said, before the choir sang Josh Groban’s Prayer in front of the ruins of the church.

“But we are still preparing for competition in Vietnam in December,” she added.

Tuesday’s earthquake was the worst to hit the Philippines since July 1990, when a magnitude-7.9 quake shook the northern island of Luzon, killing more than 1,600 people with 1,000 still listed as missing presumed dead.

Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said the energy from this week’s quake amounted to the equivalent of “around 32 Hiroshima atomic bombs.”

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