A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of the central Philippines on Feb. 6, killing at least 43 people and causing widespread panic, officials said.

The powerful quake hit in a narrow strait between the heavily populated island provinces of Negros and Cebu, causing buildings to collapse, cracking roads and bridges, and shutting down the power supply.

In Cebu city, a popular tourist destination and city of 2.3 million, hotel guests scrambled to higher floors as unfounded rumours that a huge tsunami was bearing down spread by text message.

At least 29 were killed by landslides while 10 others were crushed by collapsing buildings in the mountainous town of of Guihulngan in Negros, said regional military official Colonel Francisco Patrimonio.

There is also an undetermined number of wounded, he added.

“Some private homes collapsed along with our court house and parts of the public market. We got people out of the buildings but we could not evacuate the homes,” police chief Senior Inspector Alvin Futalan told AFP.

Four other people were killed in other parts of Negros which also suffered widespread power outages and cracked roads and bridges, hampering rescue efforts, Patrimonio told reporters.

“Looting is now rampant in Guihulngan which forced us to commit (more troops) with the Philippine national police,” the colonel added./.

TTA0702. Organic rice gets taste of success

Ca Mau, Feb. 7 (VNA) — Hoa Sua organic fragrant rice in the southernmost province of Ca Mau has become the first organic rice produced in Vietnam that meets EU and US standards.

The Vien Phu Organic and Healthy Foods Joint-Stock Corporation has received two organic production certificates issued by the international Control Union Certifications for its Hoa Sua organic fragrant rice and other products.

Nguyen Dang Nghia, director of the Southern Region's Environment – Fertiliser – Land Research Centre, said Vien Phu was the only farm in Vietnam that has received organic production certificates granted by both the US and the EU.

In 2009, Ca Mau authorities allocated 320ha of fallow land in U Minh District's Khanh An Commune for Vien Phu to set up a large-scale field with international production standards.

After three years of preparing the land, Vien Phu can now plant rice on 120 of 320ha.

Vo Minh Khai, general director of Vien Phu, said his company has invested more than 30 billion VND (1.4 million USD) in the land to grow organic rice and vegetables using natural materials. Fish are also raised in the paddies.

The company breeds fish and ducks in rice fields and uses micro-organic fermentation to kill rice pests.

Although the yield of organic rice is still low for first crops, Vien Phu is expected to increase the productivity of organic rice to five tonnes in 2015 after more money is poured into the project, according to Khai.

The company annually exports 1,000 tonnes of Hoa Sua fragrant rice at a price of 10 USD a kilo, mostly to the US and the EU.

This year, Vien Phu expects to produce about 1,000 tonnes of various kinds of Hoa Sua organic fragrant rice, including white, red, purple and black rice.

The company plans to cooperate with 10,000-20,000 farm households that have a total of 10,000-20,000 ha to grow the rice.

If local authorities support construction irrigation systems, Ca Mau Province can expand the area under organic rice cultivation to 100,000ha.

Le Dung, deputy director of the Ca Mau Province People's Committee, said the provincial administration will create conditions for Vien Phu to develop organic rice cultivation in Tran Van Thoi District./.