Rescue workers in the Philippines are struggling to reach isolated communities affected by Tuesday's deadly earthquake.

The magnitude-7.2 earthquake struck close to one of the country's key tourist hubs on Tuesday morning, destroying homes and buildings, including centuries-old churches dating back to the Spanish occupation.

The death toll stands at more than 150, and authorities are warning it could rise.

Survivors on the central Philippine island of Bohol, one of the worst affected areas, are still digging through ruins in search of friends and relatives.

The secretary-general of the Philippines National Red Cross, Gwendolyn Pang, says the rescue effort has been difficult.

"It is really very challenging to address the needs in Bahol because many roads are not accessable...and we have to do it by sea, and some of the ports were also damaged," Ms Pang told Asia Pacific.

"The information is coming in every now and then, very slowly, because of the communication challenge."

With major roads ripped open and blocked by landslides, she says the Red Cross is also struggling to get supplies to the area.

"There are 21 areas affected in the whole province of Bahol and there are a lot of isolated places because there are 10 bridges which have collapsed and five non-passable roads.

"Some of the power has been restored in major cities, but not in the remote areas. We also need to supply drinking water.

"Food is a major problem because many stores are still closed and there's no way of bringing food to them except by sea or by boat," Ms Pang said.

The epicentre was 629 kilometres south-east of the capital Manila, near Cebu, the second most important city in the Philippines.

There has been hundreds of aftershocks following the quake, and Ms Pang says many locals are still scared.

"People still have this fear every time they feel the ground shaking - aftershocks are coming almost every hour - and people have this fear and voluntarily evacuated themselves to open areas.

So we need to look into the needs of these people who are in the open areas, and they don't want to stay in their homes because of the fear of (another) possible earthquake.

"There will be more and more psycho-social support needed for the people to help them cope with the situation.

"Usually they have flooding and fire but not earthquakes, and people feel unable to overcome the fear," she said

 

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