By Rommel F. Lopez

The Itbayat Church is heavily damaged by the series of quakes that hit the town early Saturday morning.  (Photo by Dominic De Sagon Asa)

(UPDATED 11:10 a.m.) A 6.4-magnitude aftershock shook Itbayat, Batanes at 7:38 a.m. today just a few hours after a 5.4-quake struck the municipality, leaving eight people dead, 60 wounded and properties damaged, including the historic Itbayat Church.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the quake’s epicenter was located at 19 kilometers northwest of Itbayat.  No tsunami warning was raised by Phivolcs, which described the tremor’s origin as tectonic.

Intensity IV was felt at the provincial capital of Basco.

The Phivolcs said the initial 5.4 quake struck 4:16 a.m., followed by the stronger 6.4-magnitude quake. Several weaker aftershocks were recorded.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council executive director Ricardo Jalad said the agency received unofficial reports from Batanes Gov. Marilou Cayco that eight people were dead and 60 were injured.

Photos shared on social media by Itbayat residents showed properties destroyed and scared residents waiting outside of their homes.

Government officials advised residents to stay outdoors in open spaces such as town plazas, to be safe from aftershocks.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines dispatched C295 aircraft from Villamor Airbase.

The belfry of the historic Sta. Maria de Mayan Church in Itbayat was destroyed following the tremors.  Completed and blessed in 1888, the church withstood a lot of typhoons and earthquakes in the past.

A photo from Fr. Ronaldo Manabat, rector and parish priest of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Batanes, showed huge cracks on the façade of the church and the top of the belfry resting on its base.

The interior of Itbayat Church shows the extent of the damage wrought by the early morning quake that hit the province of Batanes (Photo by Dominic De Sagon Asa)