At least eight people were killed and many injured after a twin earthquake hit islands in the northern Philippines in the early hours on Saturday while many were still asleep, according to local officials.

The quakes of magnitude 5.4 and 5.9 that jolted within hours of each other, according to the US Geological Survey.

No tsunami alert has been issued yet.

Both tremors hit the province of Batanes, a group of sparsely populated islets north of the nation’s largest Luzon island.

Terrified residents fled their homes and images in the Philippine media showed collapsed masonry homes as well as deep cracks in paved roads.

Many people were still asleep when the first tremor struck around 4:15 am followed just under four hours later by the second stronger jolt.

Mayor Raul de Sagon told AFP that eight people had been killed and around 60 others were hurt.

The extent of their injuries was not clear.

“The timing of the quake meant many people were at home when the first quake struck”, police sergeant Uzi Villa said.

“We saw houses shaking. Some of the walls of the houses collapsed and fell on the victims,” he added.

The Philippines is part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from quake-prone Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

(With AFP inputs)