In the middle of the night, the earth slipped and shuddered on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Around Lake Lanao, where once warlike Moros now peaceably grow corn, flimsy houses on stilts toppled into the churning water, drowning many of their occupants. Other houses were engulfed by quake-raised waves from the lake. In the towns, houses and buildings collapsed; yawning fissures opened in the ground, blocking highways; bridges were grotesquely torn and twisted.

As a U.S. medical team flew to the stricken area from Manila's Clark Field, President Ramon Magsaysay declared a public calamity. The death toll was more...

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