Manila: At least eight people were killed and 60 others injured in a series of strong earthquakes that jolted the Philippines' northernmost province on Saturday, officials said.

The first quake, magnitude 5.4, struck 12 kilometres north-east of the island town of Itbayat in Batanes province, 695km north of the capital Manila, at 4.16am, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.

More than three hours later, a magnitude 5.9 quake hit 21km north-east from Itbayat, Phivolcs added.

A damaged house in Itbayat town, Batanes islands, northern Philippines after a strong earthquake struck on Saturday.Credit:AP

Another earthquake, with a magnitude 5.8, rocked the nearby town of Basco more than two hour after that, the institute said.

The first pre-dawn quake caused five of the casualties, who were buried in collapsed houses, according to the national civil defence office. Three more people were killed when they were hit by falling debris in the following tremors, the office added.

The earthquakes damaged many houses and structures – including a 131-year-old church – which were mostly made from cement and stone as protection from strong typhoons that pass through the province, said Roldan Esdicul, head of the provincial disaster relief agency.

Two strong earthquakes hours apart struck a group of sparsely populated islands in the Luzon Strait in the northern Philippines early on Saturday.Credit:AP

Most of the town's population of nearly 3000 people was evacuated to a public plaza to keep them out of their homes amid aftershocks, while the town's electricity was also cut off as a safety measure, Esdicul said.

"It's safest for everyone to be outside of their houses," he told Manila radio station DZMM. "Most of those killed were sleeping and buried by their collapsed houses or hit by falling debris."

The military has dispatched a plane from Manila to pick up emergency personnel and relief goods from nearby northern provinces to bring to Itbayat, which can only be accessed by boat.

"We are waiting for the updated if it's safe to land because they are still experiencing aftershocks," said Ricardo Jalad, head of the national civil defense office.

The earthquakes hit after a towering column of ash exploded from a volcano on Indonesia's most populous island, Java, forcing tourists and residents to flee the mountain on Friday night.

Indonesia's disaster agency said Friday the local government had closed the mountain near the city of Bandung to visitors and aircraft had been warned to avoid the area. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Philippines is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where about 90 per cent of the world's earthquakes strike.

The last major quake to hit the country was a 7.1-magnitude tremor that killed more than 220 people in the centre of the country in October 2013.

In July 1990, more than 2400 people were killed on the northern island of Luzon in a 7.8-magnitude quake, one of the strongest tremors ever to hit the country.


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