LOON (2nd UPDATE) - Survivors of a huge earthquake that killed more than 150 people in the Philippines rummaged hopelessly Wednesday through ruins for friends and relatives, as rescue workers struggled to reach isolated communities.
The 7.1-magnitude earthquake smashed the central island of Bohol on Tuesday morning, ripping apart bridges, tearing down centuries-old churches and triggering landslides that engulfed entire homes.
The number of people confirmed killed on Bohol and neighbouring islands climbed from 93 on Tuesday to 151 on Wednesday night as the full scale of the disaster became clear, and there were no tales of miracle rescues.
At Loon, a small coastal town of about 40,000 people just 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the epicentre of the earthquake, shocked survivors used their bare hands to scour through the rubble of their homes.
"We're trying our best to keep hopes up, but in this desperate situation there is nothing much we can do beyond giving comforting words," local priest Father Tomas Balakayo told AFP as he stood in front of Loon's destroyed limestone church.
"I try to be strong but this is terrible, what have these people done to deserve this?"
Loon farmer Serafin Megallen said he dug with his hands, brick-by-brick, to retrieve his mother-in-law and cousin from the rubble of their home on Tuesday.
"They were alive but they died of their injuries three hours later. There was no rescue that came, we had to rely on neighbours for help," he told AFP.