A store owner guards the remains of his store amidst debris after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit the night before in the city of Digos, Davao del Sur province on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on October 17, 2019. A child was killed in the strong 6.4-magnitude quake that hit the southern Philippines on October 16, a local mayor said, as houses collapsed, power was knocked out and a shopping mall burst into flames.
AFP/Manman Dejeto
Strong Mindanao quake leaves 5 dead
Robertzon Ramirez, Christina Mendez, John Unson, Jaime Laude, Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - October 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Five people died while dozens were injured in a powerful earthquake that struck several areas in Mindanao on Wednesday night, sending thousands of individuals scampering out of their houses, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported yesterday.

NDRRMC spokesman Mark Timbal said all local government units (LGUs) in the quake-hit Davao region, Central Mindanao including the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARRM) were conducting an audit of damaged structures such as roads and bridges. Classes at all levels have been suspended.

The fatalities were identified as Tony Panangulon, 50, who died of cardiac arrest as the quake hit their village in M’lang, North Cotabato, and nine-year-old Jhonavie Sendad who was hit by falling debris in Datu Paglas town in Maguindanao.

The three other fatalities were Arjene Abondo, 20; Crisjay Roda, 2, and nine-month-old Jay Lakay – all of Magsaysay town, Davao del Sur. 

Roda was pinned down by a collapsing wall in Barangay San Isidro, while the two others were buried alive in a landslide that struck their village of Barangay Malawit at the height of the quake. 

The NDRRMC said 53 injuries were reported in Regions 11, 12 and BARMM as of 5 p.m. yesterday.

About 511 families or 2,555 people in Region 12 were affected by the quake.

Timbal said 18 other local residents in Magsaysay town were injured during the landslide and are now confined at the Digos City provincial hospital.

In Kidapawan, three persons were injured in the intensity-7 quake that struck the city, the strongest so far, and are now confined at the Kidapawan City Hospital. Six others were also injured in Makilala town.

The United States Geological Survey said the quake struck 69 kilometers north-northwest of the city of General Santos, Mindanao at 7:39 p.m. The epicenter was about 80 km southwest of central Davao.

The Mindanao office of the Philippine Volcanology and Seismology said it has recorded 144 aftershocks from between Wednesday night until past 7 a.m. Thursday.

The Philippines is on the geologically active Pacific Ring of Fire and experiences frequent earthquakes.

Malacañang yesterday appealed for sobriety among the communities affected by the strong earthquake in Davao and adjacent provinces in Mindanao.

“We ask the public to remain calm but vigilant and we urge them to refrain from spreading disinformation that may cause undue alarm, panic and stress to many people,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

President Duterte is closely monitoring the situation, but there is no schedule yet for his visit to the affected areas, Panelo said.

“The Palace is saddened by this unfortunate incident and, in the meantime, wishes to express its sympathies to those who were affected,” he added.

According to Panelo, the Office of the President has tasked all concerned agencies of the government to mobilize, respond and provide immediate assistance to those in need, as well as to study plans on how to rehabilitate the damaged areas.

Calls for sobriety came as authorities arrested yesterday a 17-year-old girl and her mother for circulating fake news on a “tsunami alert” after a series of strong earthquakes struck certain parts of Mindanao on Wednesday night.

Authorities have also dismissed tsunami panic alerts as there have been no notice of any incident of tsunami following the series of tremors.

Widespread destruction

Initial damage report showed that the strong tremor was recorded at intensity seven in Kidapawan City and in various intensities in other areas, damaging infrastructure in Davao and Central Mindanao.

“This was the strongest quake we have experienced so far – as if a heavy road roller was pounding the ground. But so far, except for damaged structures, there’s no report yet of damage to life,” Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista said in a television interview yesterday.

Evangelista added that 30 evacuation centers were immediately put up to house patients who were brought out of the city hospital for safety reasons.

He added that additional evacuation centers were also established in several devastated villages to give shelter to local residents who opted to stay outdoors due to continuing aftershocks.

Of the 19 damaged structures, 15 were in Davao del Sur – 10 houses and the municipal hall of Magsaysay town and four schools in Digos City.

In Central Mindanao, a portion of the furniture section of Gaisano Mall in General Santos City was gutted by fire at the height of the quake, while glass walls at SM mall also in the city were shattered and Veranza Mall sustained wall cracks and also shattered glass walls.

The fire has been contained but firefighters, as of yesterday, were still investigating sections of the mall, half of which was gutted by the blaze.

The Bureau of Fire Protection-Region 12 said probers are yet to determine if the fire that hit Gaisano Mall in General Santos City about two hours later was related to the earthquake.

So intense was the fire that firemen from as far as Digos City in Davao del Sur and from Koronadal City, capital of South Cotabato, were called in to help.

Nine houses were also razed in another fire incident in a residential area in Cotabato City before dawn yesterday.

Bong Dacera, disaster officer in General Santos City, said that the intensity four quake felt in the city left minor architectural damage.

“One person was reported injured and some passed out during the tremor,” Dacera said, adding that an investigation is still being done to determine the cause of the fire that hit Gaisano Mall.

In Cotabato province, the quake damaged the Sangguniang Bayan building of M’lang town as well as the Roldan Hospital; the Makilala Fire Station, Carmen Municipal Hospital, six houses in Magpet town and the KCC Mall in Koronadal.

Municipal emergency responders and the local police force declared off limits since Wednesday night the Sangguniang Bayan building in M’lang due to structural damage.

The major tremor also plunged General Santos City, Koronadal City, Luntayan, Sultan Kudarat and Kidapawan City in total darkness.

Energy restoration

This prompted the Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct an emergency meeting yesterday with members of the Task Force on Energy Resiliency (TFER) to check on the status of affected energy facilities in Mindanao, even as power was immediately restored.

Based on reports, the Mindanao Geothermal Power Plant 1 and 2 tripped on Wednesday at 7:37 p.m. and was restored yesterday.

The DOE said the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines has mobilized its line personnel to conduct line assessments and restoration, if needed.

Meanwhile, the National Electrification Administration said all electric cooperatives (ECs) that experienced power interruptions due to the tremor are now back to normal operations.

These ECs are Cotabato Electric Cooperative Inc., COTELCO-PPALMA, Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative Inc., Davao del Sur Electric Cooperative Inc., Davao Oriental Electric Cooperative Inc., South Cotabato I Electric Cooperative Inc., SOCOTECO II and Sultan Kudarat Electric Cooperative Inc.

The power co-ops were also advised to “activate their emergency response organization accordingly when the need arises to implement without delay the appropriate emergency response plans.”

Moreover, the ECs were required “to restore the electric service in areas which were not affected by the earthquake but temporarily shut off for safety reasons.”

Business as usual, class suspension

It has been business as usual, meanwhile, in Central Mindanao’s trading hubs after the tremor, while classes in schools in the region have been suspended since yesterday morning to enable engineers to inspect damage to classrooms.

The city governments in Kidapawan, Tacurong, Koronadal, Kidapawan and General Santos confirmed yesterday morning that business establishments opened as usual and that operation of public conveyances continued without disruption.

The NDRRMC said that as LGUs are still conducting an audit of damage to infrastructure, classes at all levels in over 22 areas in Central Mindanao have been suspended.

In Cotabato province, government work was also suspended with only department heads and people from provincial engineering office ordered to report to their posts to do damage assessment.

Areas where classes were suspended yesterday covered the towns of Tulunan, Kabacan, Arakan, Magpet, M’lang, President Roxas, Carmen, Makilala, Matalam, Kidapawan City, Koronadal City (elementary level and high school) and Antipas.

In Sarangani province, classes in all levels were suspended in Malungon town, while in Sultan Kudarat, classes in all levels were also suspended in the towns of Lambayong, Columbio, Tacurong City and Esperanza and in Tupi and Norla in South Cotabato.

“So far, we’re still lucky despite the 6.2 quake last night as there’s no reported damage or casualties,” said Rene Punzalan of the Sarangani disaster office.  

Education Secretary Leonor Briones has directed the inspection of schools affected by the earthquake that hit parts of Mindanao on Wednesday night.

Briones instructed the agency’s disaster risk reduction and management services office to look into the impact of the quake on the schools in the affected region, according to Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla.

The strong quake also prompted the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to suspend operations of its port in General Santos City on Wednesday night for safety measures, but port operations resumed before 9 a.m. yesterday. 

PPA general manager Jay Santiago said the PPA has around 67 ports in Mindanao that would need inspection for damage.

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