Television footage showed people scurrying out of buildings and frightened school children in tears [AFP]

A magnitude 6.7 earthquake off the central Philippine island of Negros has killed at least 13 people, including two children, and left more than 40 missing.

Following dozens of aftershocks on Monday, government offices and schools were ordered to close.

A grade-six pupil died after being plucked out from a collapsed chapel wall, while a nine-year-old girl was killed when the concrete wall of a school collapsed, officials said.

A three-storey building caved in and some seaside cottages were destroyed by waves in La Libertad, Negros Oriental, near the epicentre of the earthquake, 5km off the shore of Tayasan town, and at a depth of 10km, according to local calculations.

Some roads, bridges and houses also sustained cracks, but major roads remained passable.

With the earthquake felt in areas within a radius of about 113km, the US Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 6.7 and at a depth of 20km.

The volcanology and seismology institute initially announced a tsunami alert but later lifted it.

"While the threat of immediate danger appears to have passed, we urge the people in affected areas to remain watchful
and calm, and to co-operate with the authorities," said a presidential spokesman.

Television footage showed people scurrying out of buildings, residents converging in open spaces and frightened school children in tears.

"I have advised our people to return to their homes and stay calm. I appeal to our president for help," Roel Degamo, the Negros Oriental Governor, said in a television interview.

"We're just recovering from Typhoon Sending and now this earthquake," said Degamo, referring to the typhoon which killed about 1,250 people in the southern Philippines in December.

Source: Agencies