A strong earthquake has hit a popular tourist area in the central Philippines, killing at least 20 people and tearing down several historic buildings.
The 7.2-magnitude quake struck early Tuesday, sending frightened residents and visitors rushing out of their homes and businesses.
Sian Maynard , a freelance coordinator in Cebu City, tells VOA she was awoken by temblor, which was the strongest she has experienced.
"I was sleeping in, and I felt my room shake and I saw that the books on my bookshelf were falling off. Then I heard my mom screaming for me to get out of the house."
A defense spokesman said 15 of the deaths occurred in Cebu province, which is home to some of the country's most beautiful beaches. He said five others died in neighboring Bohol and Siquijor islands.
Pictures on social media showed extensive damage to shops and roads torn apart by the quake. Maynard says several of the area's historic buildings suffered major damage.
"A bell tower in one of our oldest churches has collapsed and (there is) lots of other structural damage around the city, as well. In Bohol, which was supposedly the quake's epicenter, a 400 year-old church collapsed, also."
The quake was centered 56 kilometers above Bohol Island, which is popular with tourists for its so-called "Chocolate Hills."
No tsunami warning was issued. But several powerful aftershocks were reported in the hours after the initial quake, prompting many residents to stay outside.
Tuesday is a national holiday in the Philippines, which may have led to a reduction in casualties, as many schools and offices were closed.
Earthquakes are common in the Philippines, which lies along the Pacific ``Rim of Fire.''