After the quake struck at 8:12 a.m., paniced people spilled out on the street. It was centered about 20 miles below the town of Carmen on Bohol Island, where many buildings collapsed, roads cracked up and bridges fell and over 73 people were killed.
Extensive damage also hit densely populated Cebu city, across a narrow strait from Bohol, causing deaths when a building in the port and the roof of a market area collapsed.
Historic churches dating from the Spanish colonial period suffered the most
The quake set off a stampede in a gym in Cebu where people were lining up to receive government aid program money, killing five and injuring eight others, said Neil Sanchez, provincial disaster management officer. In another city nearby, 18 people were injured in the scramble to get out of a shaking building.
At least 16 people died in Bohol and 15 in Cebu, officials said. Scores were injured.
"We ran out of the building, and outside, we hugged trees because the tremors were so strong," said Vilma Yorong, a provincial government employee in Bohol.
"When the shaking stopped, I ran to the street and there I saw several injured people. Some were saying their church has collapsed," she told The Associated Press by phone.
As fear set in, Yorong and the others ran up a mountain, afraid a tsunami would follow the quake. "Minutes after the earthquake, people were pushing each other to go up the hill," she said.
But the quake was centered inland and did not cause a tsunami.
Offices and schools were closed for a national holiday -- the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha -- which may have saved lives. The earthquake also was deeper below the surface than the 6.9-magnitude temblor last year in waters near Negros Island, also in the central Philippines, that killed nearly 100 people.
Many roads and bridges were reported damaged, but historic churches dating from the Spanish colonial period suffered the most. Among them is the country's oldest, the 16th-century Basilica of the Holy Child in Cebu, which lost its bell tower. Nearly half of a 17th-century limestone church in Loboc town, southwest of Carmen, was reduced to rubble. President Benigno Aquino III said he would travel to Bohol and Cebu on Wednesday.
Regional military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said that he recalled soldiers from the holiday furlough to respond to the quake. He said it damaged the pier in Tagbilaran, Bohol's provincial capital, and caused some cracks at Cebu's international airport but that navy ships and air force planes could use alternative ports to help out.
Passenger flights resumed later Tuesday after officials checked runways and buildings for damage.
With PTI inputs